Thursday, October 8, 2009

Clinton turns to bullying -- again

A couple of years ago, when Clinton and Sterling were in dispute over the fate of the Wekepeke reservoirs, a member of the Clinton Board of Selectmen finally had it to here with Sterling and tried to bully one of our selectmen by dismissing the town as full of lay-abouts with nothing better to do than to harass poor old Clinton.

Now Clinton’s long-running dispute with Lancaster over the Clinton Fish and Game rifle range is heating up again, and once again Clinton has had enough of its neighbors. This time, not only is one of its selectmen resorting to name-calling, but the police chief is threatening to stop or reduce mutual aid to Lancaster. First, Selectman Bill Connolly:
Selectman William F. Connolly Jr., a proponent of keeping the range for target shooting and for police use, is a former member of the Fish and Game Association who has battled Lancaster officials about its use, and tried to work out an agreement to satisfy both sides.

Mr. Connolly said although approval for police was made last year before he was elected to the board in May, he was under the impression all involved had no problem with police certification shooting, including residents near the range...

“Little Napoleon [Lancaster Town Administrator Orlando Pacheco] may think he can tell the Lancaster Board of Selectmen what to do, but he’s not going to tell the Clinton Board of Selectmen what to do,” Mr. Connolly said.
My guess is that Selectman Connolly is exasperated that Lancaster has gone back on what he thought was an agreement to allow the Clinton police to use the range. Frankly, I would be miffed too if the rules had changed out from underneath me. But deriding the administrator of a neighboring town as “Little Napoleon” is rarely a successful negotiating tactic. I can’t imagine that derision will help bring the two towns back into agreement.

(For his part, Pacheco doesn't have a reputation for professional language when it comes to negotiating agreements either. He has likened his own town's police union to "pigs in the mud.")

But more troubling is the implication that Clinton police might not be so willing to help Lancaster out with its public safety needs if they don’t get what the want from the negotiations.”
Chief Laverdure said he is particularly miffed because the stop order has caused bad feelings in the two towns after years of cooperation between the Lancaster and Clinton police departments, which has included using the Clinton police lockup for Lancaster prisoners, and assisting Lancaster with police calls.

Just last week, he said, six Clinton officers helped two Lancaster officers at a break-in on South Meadow Road in Lancaster, near the range, in which the alleged robber was still in the house.

“We combed the woods, we identified a suspect — and it’s a dangerous guy, and he’s still out there. We spent 20 hours on that case. I’ll be reluctant to do that again,” Chief Laverdure said.
It is outrageous for the police chief in one town to threaten to withhold aid to a neighboring community because of a political dispute between the boards of selectmen in the two towns. I guess it speaks to a certain naivete on my part, but I would hope that our police would stay out of public policy disputes. I believe the motto is “To serve and protect,” not “To serve and protect unless your town administrator pisses us off.”

Let’s turn it around for a minute. Would it have been appropriate during the Wekepeke dispute for the Sterling Police or Fire Department to come out and say “Well, since Clinton hasn’t repaired the dams up there, we can’t help out if Clinton calls for help; we need to make sure we are ready if one of those dams should blow.”? Absolutely not. In fact, it would have been offensive.

Just because Clinton is the big dog in the region doesn’t mean it should also be the big bully. It didn’t get them anywhere in the Wekepeke dispute and it likely won’t help out here either.
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