Where are the town police?

In recent months, local police have been behind such initiatives as “high-five Fridays,” with officers enthusiastically greeting school children in the morning.  The #CopsLoveLemonadeStands hashtag has thrived on social media, with some police departments even encouraging parents to “report” their child’s lemonade stand in advance so cops can use the opportunity to interact with kids between emergency calls.  Officers and kids come together to “shop with a cop” for school supplies purchased with donations for those in need.  Some young kids are even occasionally selected to have breakfast with a local officer, then get a first-class ride to school in a radio car.

None of these things happened in the Town of Montgomery, NY.

Nearly seven months into the school year and I have yet to see a police officer at Berea Elementary School during the morning drop-off or afternoon dismissal.  My wife hasn’t either.  When I queried school teachers at Berea, I was not surprised to hear that they rarely see police officers at the school outside of an occasional lock-down drill or when called because someone is using the school parking lot for “something crazy.”

There are too many precious opportunities missed.

Sadly, my emails and phone calls to Town of Montgomery Police Chief Amthor have gone unanswered.  The only strong public outreach I have noticed from the department recently has been an amnesty program for heroin addicts.  I recognize the epidemic and surge in overdose deaths, and I support efforts to curb it.  But the fact is that keeping a kid from taking a pill in the first place – and ultimately shooting up –should be just as high of a priority as helping someone get clean.  Much of this begins with opportunities to introduce our kids to our police – frequently, and in a positive setting.

Our area is blessed with outstanding local police officers – genuinely engaging and dedicated to the task.  I can only hope that the town leadership sees that we are failing our kids with virtually no police presence where it is needed most – at our schools and with our youth.

This letter originally appeared in the Wallkill Valley Times, March 22, 2017

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