The Havre de Grace City Council president honored his city’s police force this week, emphasizing that incidents of wrongdoing by individual police officers are not “the norm” for the law enforcement profession, especially when it comes to the Havre de Grace Police Department.
“We’re all currently facing some turbulent times, and what the media has done is take some isolated instances regarding police officers and made them out as the norm,” David Glenn said during Monday’s council meeting.
Glenn, speaking during the portion of the meeting reserved for remarks from the council president, stressed that the idea that such events happen on a regular basis “simply is not true, and our police officers in Havre de Grace are living proof of that.”
Protests have been happening throughout the country since George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25. Floyd’s death, which happened after officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, was captured on video and quickly generated outrage nationwide.
The recent protests have focused on incidents in which Black people have been killed by police, and many demonstrators have portrayed law enforcement as a whole as being part of a pattern of systemic racism against African Americans.
There have been violent clashes between demonstrators and police in some cities — most recently in Portland, Oregon, as protesters battled with federal law enforcement — but many of the protests have been peaceful, such as events that happened in Harford County, including in Havre de Grace, in early June.
Many activists also have made calls to “defund the police” by taking portions of local funding that goes to law enforcement and reallocating it to bolster social-service entities to send their personnel to incidents such as people having mental health crises, rather than police.
Glenn later clarified that he was not talking only about incidents involving race, but any story about a negative encounter between police and citizens that then casts all police officers in a bad light. He stressed that he considers first responders “our unsung heroes,” and he wanted to pay tribute to the work police do “day in, day out.”
“I want to be the change agent,” he said Wednesday. “I want to be the one that turns things around, and one small step was just paying tribute to the police officers.”
In his remarks Monday, Glenn praised Havre de Grace officers for their commitment to keeping the community safe and encouraged residents to thank them for their service. He said Havre de Grace has been recognized as “one of the safest cities in the entire United States in which to raise children,” in large part because of the “tireless dedication, concerted efforts and selfless service” by local police.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s hot or cold or wet or dry,” he said. “On any given day, they’re always out there to answer the call.”
City officers work many hours, giving up personal time, holidays, birthdays and time with their families “to protect our best interests,” according to Glenn.
“While we all tend to run from danger, they on the other hand run towards it in an effort to maintain peace and harmony,” he said. “No matter what the situation, they stick it out and they see it through.”
Glenn said police are tasked with enforcing safety measures put in place by the state government to slow the spread of COVID-19, noting that officers “have been getting pushback, which is truly unfair.”
“They are just doing their job and I must say, it’s a small price to pay given the ongoing COVID-19 threat,” he said.
Glenn said he “proudly” salutes “the efforts of our hard-working, compassionate and caring police officers,” noting that “their invaluable commitment to this community is something we cannot begin to put a price tag on.”
“The next time you run into a Havre de Grace police officer, I would encourage you to thank them for their service,” he told residents.
“They rarely receive much-needed praise they rightfully deserve, and it costs us absolutely nothing to say ‘thank you,‘” Glenn added.
Local police-community relations
Resident John Lee Sr. spoke at length during the portion of the meeting reserved for citizen comments, talking about a wide range of topics — including the need to support local police.
Lee, 76, shared some of his memories about attending the segregated Havre de Grace Consolidated School and having to use facilities marked “colored” at the rear of businesses when getting food from a restaurant or going to the movies.
The activist, historian, author, and minister, who said he has appointed “my own self as a community organizer,” wore a baseball cap and T-shirt bearing the images of former U.S. President Barack Obama.
Obama, who served as the 44th president from 2009 to 2017, was the first Black man elected president of the United States. Lee said he did not ever think “somebody that looked like me” would become president in his lifetime.
He also encouraged the mayor and City Council members to visit his neighborhood of Battery Village and listed a number of issues that need to be fixed, such as installing speed bumps in the street, helping to organize community cleanups, trimming trees and repairing basketball courts.
Lee told Glenn that “we need the police department” in his neighborhood.
“I want to call the police, I need them,” he said. “I don’t want to defund the police — we need the police department, so let’s work together.”
Lee promoted two community events he is coordinating that are happening in Aberdeen in late August, including an Aug. 22 gathering at the American Legion’s Bernard L. Tobin Post 128 to honor local veterans and an Aug. 29 back-to-school giveaway at Festival Park.
“With everything that’s going on in this world, and the climate is so explosive, we’ve got to get a grip on this thing,” Lee said. “We’ve got to live together, or we’re going to die and perish like fools if we don’t live together.”
Resident Howard Caldwell Jr. said he was inspired to speak after Glenn’s remarks on the police. Caldwell said he agrees with Glenn, but he noted “how much trauma is attached to African Americans.”
“On the police side of things, the law enforcement side, that’s a huge thing as of recently,” he said.
Caldwell said he wants to “just to do my part in trying to bridge gaps and keep the peace that’s already here in this city.” He has met recently with Police Chief Teresa Walter and the department’s patrol captain, Jon Krass and administrative captain, Joe Alton.
“It’s been a huge blessing,” he said of those meetings and discussions. “It’s been very humbling, and it’s been a very positive experience as an African American, witnessing all this trauma that people that look like me are experiencing.”
“I do agree that that is not the norm,” he said of negative incidents involving police. “And I’m just trying to contribute to the citizens here in Havre de Grace understanding that.”
Caldwell said he wants to “keep it that way, to where it doesn’t become part of what we are experiencing here in Havre de Grace.”
“Absolutely,” Glenn replied.
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CLARIFICATION: This article has been updated to reflect David Glenn was not referring only to incidents in which Black people have died at the hands of police, but any negative incident involving an officer that is made to reflect poorly on all police.