Let’s talk honestly about police need


A controversial police-involved incident takes place a thousand miles from here, and as disturbing as it might be to people in this area, they inevitably will express their opinions on the matter and move on.

This happened so far away, they will say, that it has no affect on us. Except that it does, albeit in a manner that most people would not recognize.

Because of the coverage these upsetting events engender, police agencies are doing more to vet their recruits. Multiple reasons exist for doing this, protecting the public being the primary one. But law enforcement agencies and the people who lead them also are wary of liability issues, not to mention the possible ruination of a department’s – and maybe an entire community’s – image.

Earlier this week, Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro told Ocean City officials that it’s becoming more difficult to find summer police officers who meet these increasingly strict requirements.

So far, these tougher assessments, which include polygraph testing and psychological evaluations, have resulted in a 79 percent failure rate in recent summer police officer recruiting classes.

That makes it difficult to field the usual complement of Ocean City’s temporary police, and Buzzuro is only being honest when he suggests that it’s not going to get any easier.

The mayor and council, however, don’t even want to think about it, much less discuss it openly, likely because any sort of organizational shake-up comes with political risks. There’s also the issue of cost, although, as Buzzuro said, the use of civilian employees in the summer, in order to shift more fully qualified officers out onto the streets, may mitigate the expense.

Nevertheless, elected officials need to get over that reluctance and discuss it publicly. It’s a major issue that will have to be addressed eventually, as police hires everywhere are destined to get more scrutiny with each instance of questionable police conduct, no matter where it takes place.

As Buzzuro said this week, the police paradigm is changing. Not letting the public in on this serious conversation won’t change that.

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