Among the many different careers in public service, police work is second to none in the demands this calling places on the individual. It requires a steady and disciplined personal life, coping with danger that often lurks behind even a mundane assignment, and the long hours required to do the work thoroughly. Police officers must be ready to offer these qualities on a moment's notice.
At the same time, it's a profession that affects the average citizen at moments when he or she may be most vulnerable. A free society rightfully expects its public servants to act in the public interest, and to enforce the law with the highest regard for the civil rights of all parties. That is the cutting edge that separates us from the many governments that impose their will on their people.
Some state lawmakers have called for the creation of a citizens' review board to examine alleged cases of state police misconduct. Among the groups favoring such a board is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Governor Cecil Underwood's proposal to establish a $1.5 million overtime pay fund for veteran state police officers is also before the Legislature. The governor's proposal is targeted to encourage the state's best officers to stay in the force. Given the acknowledged demands of the job, it's not a totally unreasonable proposal.
State police superintendent Gary Edgell favors the overtime idea and has opposed the citizens' board.
We strongly recommend paying attention to the concerns of both the police and the public. We greatly value the contributions of a competent, well-trained state police. We should also recognize that every public service organization can profit from listening to the concerns of the citizenry.
We hope the Legislature can be attentive to both these concerns.