In an era when everyone rushes to judgment about everything, it’s reassuring to see the sensible, restrained comments on www.AllOTSEGO.com to last week’s police shooting of Tyler Johnson, 23, of 48 River St., during a domestic dispute.
“I’m not saying the cop was wrong,” said one commentator. “The guy had a knife and was grabbing for the woman, then the kid. He even stabbed her in the leg. It’s a sad situation, but I believe the officer did his job.”
“After the guy slashed the woman’s leg, he turned to the male cop and tried to stab him in the leg, too,” wrote another.
“Cop danced back and avoided it. Happened fast.”
“Officer was absolutely correct to do what he did,” said another.
Really, that kind of support shouldn’t be a surprise.
The survey by the city’s Police Department Reform & Reinvention Collaborative, released March 28, found 74 percent of respondents said they had been “treated professionally” in their last
encounter with the OPD.
74 percent! 74 percent of Americans don’t agree on anything.
Further, former Police Chief Doug Brenner said he was unaware of any police shooting in Otsego County in his 33-year career in law enforcement. Others who have delved into OPD history believe the last police shooting MAY have occurred – that’s MAY – over a century ago.
The local gendarmerie, most of whose members are community members seeking to protect their friends, is hardly trigger happy.
The unfortunate incident also happened coincidentally – providentially, perhaps – with another development.
As of April 1, five days before the event of April 6, Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 147 went into effect, requiring that all police shootings in the state be investigated by the state Attorney General’s Office.
The local shooting, as it happens, is the first case being taken up by the AG’s new Office of Special Investigations, according to the AG’s deputy press secretary, Sofia Quintanar.
This cushions the city’s police department.
No matter how thorough and professional a local investigation might be, it’s certain there would be concerns raised about a 28-year OPD veteran’s actions, however blameless, being assessed by his colleagues, or even the local state police.
When the AG’s office is done, it should be the final word.
It’s astonishing, though: While a videotape of the shooting has been posted online and reviewed by many, there’s no consensus among people who’ve looked at it about what happened.
Luckily, OPD Sgt. Ralph Pajerski was wearing a body cam bring the investigation to a definitive conclusion. Not only do body cams protect the public, they can protect the reputations of the officers who wear them, too.
The body-cam footage hasn’t yet been released, but it apparently will be by AG’s special unit even before the investigation is complete.
People who have seen it say the whole episode happened quickly – in something like 12 seconds. And viewing it reassured them the sergeant appears to have prevented a much worse tragedy from occurring by his quick response.
Since George Floyd’s death last May 25, police departments have become a national punching bag. Certainly, who hasn’t observed the militarization of policing since 9/11. It was probably inevitable, but it’s arguable that it’s time to ramp it down a bit.
Still, the whole idea of using social workers to replace officers trained in quelling dangerous situations, or resolving the situation without harm to innocent bystanders, is brought into question in what happened in our little corner of the nation.
If a social worker had arrived to find an angry young man who had cut his wife with a knife and threatening to kill his child, matters may have come up very differently.
As a community, let’s stay calm and patient. The AG’s investigation may be complete in as little as six weeks. Meanwhile, let’s hope, as many appear to believe, that it finds Sergeant Pajerski responded professionally to a dire situation and protected the innocent from harm.