Thursday, May 06, 2021


Steady Habits Not Enough

Portland, Oregon and Clinton, Connecticut are separated by a continent. Last month, a town proclamation supporting Black Lives Matter (BLM) and broader minority protections generated controversy. A jurisdictional issue was whether the Town Council could speak on behalf of Clinton or should restrict itself to sponsored public agencies.

Connecticut is not Oregon. Our efforts to promote community policing have been grueling, but among the best in the country. In Clinton, the police chief and other officers attended the BLM protest in solidarity. We do not worry that local law enforcement personnel would label Clinton’s protesters as “anarchists and violent rioters,” hauling them away in unmarked vans. It once seemed inconceivable that quasi-military forces would intervene to suppress protests against an overthrown election. No longer. Police forces may be forced to navigate between protecting their own communities and supporting a quasi-military federal force assaulting those communities.

Just as the Town of Clinton should instruct its students on the details of constitutional and civic life, our police should be trained and prepared to manage new challenges to local authority and democracy. Clinton is not Portland or Hong Kong, but “steady habits” alone may not be enough.

Martin Cherniack