Dear El Portal Residents (and everyone who visits and/or travels through El Portal),
In recent days, we have watched on with horror at the actions of a police officer and the subsequent death of a person because of these actions. We have also watched with equal dismay the lack of action taken by the other officers on the scene that not only would have saved a life, but most likely would have saved careers, including their own.
We have all recently heard from some police chiefs, of some of the biggest police departments in the nation, expressing their collective anger at what took place. I salute their points of view. The thing is, most police agencies in the United States are small. I often use a boxing metaphor in meetings when describing the El Portal Police Department in regards to other larger agencies through the area and the nation.
The Bantamweight champion, as great as he is, cannot beat the heavyweight champion. That is understood. But he is no less great in his given weight division. I think we can all agree that certain skills are needed to reach that pinnacle regardless of weight class. The El Portal Police Department is a bantamweight police department. We don’t have the size, equipment, or budget to compete with heavyweights such as the Miami-Dade County or the City. We don’t have the ability to compete with the “middleweight” agencies either. That being said, an officer from a 20,000-person department applying deadly force is no different than an officer applying that same deadly force from a five person department in the middle of nowhere. Similarly, that same officer from the aforementioned five-person department jumping into a pond to save a drowning child is no less heroic than an NYPD officer jumping into the Hudson to save a child. It is one in the same regardless of agency size. It is all about actions taken.
What is most important is not the size of the agency, but rather that the agency treat all people with dignity, respect, and a professionalism that keeps their nose to the grindstone, always looking to do better, and their knee off of someone’s neck. It’s to firmly uphold the oath we all took to protect the United States Constitution and not pick and choose which Amendments we like. We apply the safeguards the US Constitution provides, fairly and equitably to all.
I can tell you that my staff, police officers, and I had very immediate and robust discussions about what took place in Minnesota. The El Portal Police Department is a wide array of backgrounds from all walks of life. We do our job and we do it well. But there is always a people component at play here along with an expectation that the fellow officer, of equal rank, out there with another officer has the authority and expectation to ensure that no line is ever crossed. The El Portal Police Department fully understands this.
Sure, it is easy for me as chief, or my lieutenant, or the sergeants to give that word. But it will only be most effective when every officer of equal rank feels it is his/her duty and obligation to get involved and stop something at its infancy before it can no longer be stopped. My officers know unless they are actively trying to correct the wrong of another, they are complicit.
Thus, this is my (our) unwavering commitment to you, residents and visitors of El Portal. This nation appears to be at a crossroads right now. I would say, with everything going on, it may be defined as a crisis. But as a historian, I always take solace in the words of President John F. Kennedy when dealing with such things:
“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis. ‘ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.”
It is my hope that communication, internally within all police agencies and externally with all the communities affords the opportunity to get back on track and move on with solid solutions. We are always there for you.
Chief of Police
El Portal Police Department