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Letter to the editor: Voter apathy will be our undoing; what we should do concerning Fall River Police

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Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to take a good hard look and listen to the Mayoral candidates who are running in the general election on November 2nd. We are at a critical juncture as far as the future and stability of our city, and a LEGITIMATE DEBATE on the REAL ISSUES is long overdue! Frankly, I’m tired of hearing the incumbent whine about “full time leadership”, and/or “ceremonial positions”, when the real issues are spread over the headlines every day.

Fall River has a registered voter count of 49,840, (Ma sec.of State records as of 2/2021), and with a turn-out of 6220 in the primary, it’s pretty clear that the incumbent is the beneficiary of the city employees protecting their jobs. It’s really just basic math… 3008 city employees, less 10% (approximately) living in the suburbs, then add their relatives who do live here, pretty much gives the incumbent a free pass. (See city tax override vote of 2018, as well as the JCII recall/re-election). I applaud Mr. Ponte’s door-to-door campaigning, and hope that it helps to get the voters out.

While we are fortunate to have approximately $74M in ARPA dollars at our disposal to be distributed by the powers that be, and an ideal opportunity to invest in our future, now is not the time for backstabbing and/or best buddy/back room politics. At no time in recent history, have we had the opportunity to invest in our basic infrastructure in amounts that can really make a difference like this can. Properly invested, this money can be a game changer.

This might just be the opportunity for the FRPD to invest in another dozen rookies, purchase a dozen more sector vehicles, and get them out on the street. Common sense tells us that just the added visible police presence will go a long way in providing the additional visibility and security so badly needed throughout the city. We can be grateful to have above average police and fire departments who have answered the bell day in & day out, but recent breakdowns in command, & failure to properly oversee the rank and file, has resulted in several not-so-pretty headlines. There is little doubt that a full review and re-organization of the FRPD might very well be in order here. Between the Command, Major Crimes, Vice, Traffic, Uniform, Motor Vehicle enforcement, and several other sub-divisions, there doesn’t seem to be any cohesion. I find it comical that we have a fleet of little white vehicles, transporting “Traffic Enforcement” agents who roam our streets during the day nabbing our most heinous scofflaws. Don’t the parking laws apply after 4PM? Isn’t that what the MVEU is for? This, in my opinion, stems, at least in part, from the Chiefs position being politically appointed. Trying to serve both the Mayor and the department puts him in an awkward and unenviable position. Our police department is set-up as a para-military organization, and as such, the chief should be taken from the civil service list, and be someone who has earned the right to be the chief. This might also be a bargaining chip when bringing the various union contract negotiations into the twenty-first century. Though every city department could benefit from a review and/or reorganization, The FRPD should be the first/best starting point.

There’s little doubt that putting this city on the right track will prove to be a difficult task, and frankly, the mayor has shown time and again that his primary goal, above getting his photo taken at the grand opening of an envelope, is more in line with enhancing his “golden parachute”, as well as that of his friends, supporters and family. This is nothing new to those of us who’ve been paying attention, but if his priorities and/or allegiance lie anywhere other than our city’s fiscal well being, it might be time to try something else.

The fact is that right now, at this moment in time, is the perfect opportunity to, at least, get a running start at getting this city back to the proud city it once was.

M.R.Napert
Russell Brogan Blvd
Fall River

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