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November 22, 2011

Police Swagger Gone

Roy Meachum

There’s what passes as peace in the Frederick’s OK Corral, otherwise known as City Hall. The rumored deal to give the cops everything they seemingly wanted was killed by the Board of Aldermen last Friday. Local taxpayers no longer dwell under the menace of the boys and girls in blue swaggering and flaunting, showering tickets about like the flowers in May?


Do I go too far? Ya betcha!


I’m attempting to emulate the scare tactics used by Charlie Snyder, president of Francis Scott Key Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 91. In mid-Summer, Officer Snyder let it out that the union’s expectations meant that citizens should be happy to pay more property taxes to keep smiles on the faces of the men and women with badges. Meanwhile, somebody pointed out at September’s In the Street that Blue Flu raged. I don’t know where the phrase came from, but in various communities police have used working exactly to rule and hesitation to comply, as tools in the negotiating process. I wrote two late September columns on the subject for


At that time, I heard the deal was set. Mayor Randy McClement supposedly was going to raise taxes in order to pay a raise that applied to few sworn officers. That story I could not believe because the mayor’s a Republican; he would have to quit the party – before or certainly after – he proposed that source of revenue be tapped. Meanwhile, on the Q.T., I listened to the echoes of several rabid union members “beating barrels as hard as they were able,” to steal from poet Vachel Lindsay.


A confluence of voices arose in opposition. Aldermen Karen Young and Shelley Aloi were the boldest. As a longtime banking executive, Ms. Young was downright hostile to the financial figures projected, but still went along with comprehensive compact signed last Friday; at the last minute she muttered forebodings about unseen costs. Indeed, the contract that surfaced last week was significantly different. Police were required to conform to other municipal employees on tuition reimbursement and military and bereavement leaves. There will be no accumulation of sick leave bonuses, which has occurred for years and put considerable money in pockets of striped uniform pants.


At the very last moment, Ms. Aloi disturbed the moment of sketchy harmony by voting against the contract parts that applied to noncommissioned officers, voicing concern that it has “a potential for too many unknown costs,” as summed up by Frederick News-Post writer Patti Borda. They passed anyway, but not unanimously.


Starting a column about mostly local affairs and politics in Thanksgiving week 1984, I took on the good fight afterwards for Francis Scott Key Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 91 against Mayor Paul Gordon. Sgt. Pat O’Brien was then the president who maneuvered for the union’s survival; it was that serious. Cops hung in there shaping a safer and safer community.


Under Captain Harold Domer, running things for outsider and the disinterested Chief Ray Raffensberger, the department became too political; as a “good old boy,” the captain knew what bodies to hide or turn over for advantage. In the middle of the mess, Mayor Jennifer Daugherty fetched from the Metropolitan Police Department Kim Dine who succeeded where Pope John XXII failed, in the Counsels of Vatican II; Chief Dine “modernized” the Frederick police with patience, humor and insights learned in more than 20 years on Washington’s streets.


No chief can cure “Blue Flu” that can occur before a contract’s signing. Simply to retain allegiance of law enforcement officers he must not only go along with uniformed ranks and officers but really feel their pain, withholding criticisms to even good friends. Kim Dine toed the line magnificently during the long crisis. He and his department came together; they remain intact, facing a new contract and life in a sympathetic community.


Still, guys and girls in blue, watch your pennies lest they become a burden that dragged Harrisburg (PA) into bankruptcy.


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