Aug 7, 2013

The Massachusetts Observer / Cherry Picking in #Southbridge

The Massachusetts Observer

Posted: 06 Aug 2013 12:55 PM PDT
I imagine like many of you I heard a lot that needs to be considered in the audit of the Southbridge Police Department that was presented at the Town Council meeting on August 5, 2013.  We were admonished against "cherry-picking" the report focusing on just those things that we agree with and ignoring the rest.

For example, the auditor stated that Southbridge is a city with city challenges, a point which I have made on numerous occasions. If I focus on that one aspect of the report and ignore other things that don't fit into my own preconceived notions, then I am cherry-picking. The instruction not to cherry-pick the report is good advice.

That does not mean that we cannot have initial impressions following the presentation. First I need to state the obvious. I am not an expert at community policing or even a novice. My only qualification to give my initial reaction is one I share with every other citizen. I live in Southbridge.

It appears that the biggest problem, the overarching problem in our Police Department in this instance, and by extension the entirety of Southbridge governance, is a glaring failure to follow best practices.

Every profession has standards of practice that have been developed to insure that things are done competently and with an integrity that is beyond question or reproach.  Failure to follow these leaves a practitioner open to charges of being slip-shod at best to accusations of abuse of power at worst. Neither of these is acceptable in municipal government.

With lots more to digest, I believe that one final, and perhaps most crucial point needs to be stressed.

In his reaction to the report, even after hearing multiple examples of failure to follow best practices, Town Manager Christopher Clark made a revealing observation. He indicated that what he heard from the report was the need for better communication.

Yes, that's true. The report did indicate that. It also indicated that a great deal more is learned, not from how the communication takes place, but from the substance of the communications themselves. The report showed a disregard for best practices either through ignorance of them or perhaps through intentional avoidance of them.  Neither is acceptable and failure to recognize this aspect of the report is also cherry-picking.
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