LETTER FROM THE CHIEF
Editor’s Note: In this July 19 letter, Oneonta Police Chief Douglas W. Brenner expressed his concern about the“Say Their Names” photo display at the Westcott Lot. Nonetheless, Common Council unanimously approved the display Tuesday, July 21, and it was installed this past Sunday.
The Oneonta Police Department has always placed the needs and concerns of the residents and visitors to the City of Oneonta as its first priority.
While not insensitive to the issues facing the nation and the world, the efforts of the members of the department are best focused on what we can do for our neighbors to make Oneonta a better place for everyone.
On the agenda for the regular meeting of the Oneonta Common Council for July 21, Item 9 is listed as a topic for discussion and pertains to a photographic display supporting Black Lives Matter to be placed on the fence at the head of the Westcott lot on Main Street.
I would be remiss not to express my concerns with a photographic display that could show members of law enforcement locally in a negative context.
The city is blessed to have residents and visitors who can freely express themselves in a respectable and constructive manner, which has been seen on at least two occasions in the recent past.
We enjoy good neighbors, friendships and any display that disrupts the community feeling and positive energy of the community serves no purpose but to divide, especially when the content of the display is in relation to incidents that did not occur locally and show all law enforcement, including members of Oneonta Police Department, negatively.
Any display that could have ramifications that are potentially divisive to the City of Oneonta, its residents and its businesses, is not an image that should be promoted.
In addition, as the chief of police, one of my top concerns is for the wellbeing of the members of the Oneonta Police Department.
Police officers throughout the nation are under attack for the disturbing and unlawful actions of a few other law enforcement officials from other agencies who they have no contact with, no allegiance to, any sympathy for, and no tolerance for such actions.
This has caused a national shortage of those who wish to serve their community. Oneonta is no exception to this shortage. The department currently has two unfilled patrol officer positions and two members who are eligible for retirement. The current civil service list is almost exhausted and there is no entrance exam scheduled for this year by the state.
Many other departments throughout the state are accepting lateral transfers, as are we, but are able to offer more advantageous working conditions.
If my officers sense that the City of Oneonta is not supporting their hard work, their dedication to community, their professionalism, their unwavering dedication to fairness by allowing a divisive display, the probability of losing more officers increases.
We at the Oneonta Police Department enjoy a positive relationship with our friends and neighbors in the city, and work very hard to promote good relationships with all members of the community in which we protect and serve. A display that intentionally shows all members of law enforcement in a negative light based on the actions of a few from well outside our area would be devastating to the morale of the finest officers I have ever had the pleasure to work with and lead.
As the chief of police and a lifelong community member, I would hope that all factors are taken into consideration before any display is permitted in the City of Oneonta. Our strength comes from ourselves, and the residents in the City of Oneonta are compassionate, respectful,
have concern and empathy for our neighbors, and love of community.
Any display that does not emphasize the positivity only serves as a catalyst to create division and polarization of this community.
Yours in service,
Douglas W. Brenner
Chief of Police