Imagine this scene: You’re walking down the street and see a person sporting tattoos, a shaved head, wraparound sunglasses and possibly combat boots with pants legs tucked into them. Who is he? A drug dealer? Local thug? Motorcycle gang member? A skinhead neo-Nazi? Maybe he’s your local police officer.

As serving as police chief in Fairfield for a few months, Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey knows what I talk about.

I have seen many officers from my town dressing in a very intimidating fashion. They wear heavy wool sweaters and look very much like graduates from a SWAT school. I don’t know why patrol officers want to look like this, but it is troubling to see many falling into that trap. On television, I see that same thing in other places.

I am not anti-police. In fact, I am very much in favor of police everywhere. The state of our society, where many people have just enough guts to scold others online instead of in person, suggests that the police are needed to keep civility.

I want my police to get all the respect they deserve. I also want residents of my town to get all the respect they deserve. It’s a two-way street. If police officers act and dress inappropriately, then respect for them will disappear.

When I read articles in the newspaper that showcase police officers planning coffee and chat meetings with the people they serve, but not doing those things routinely as friends or taxpayers themselves, it is silly and meaningless. I don’t want my police to go out of their way to harass good people to satisfy quotas.

If they act and dress appropriately, are proud and mix with folks without being told, respect will follow like a magnet. That’s all we ask.

Mark Pantermoller


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