I am a police officer, sworn to enforce all laws and protect the constitutional rights of all people. I believe that bigotry, bias and racism are evil things, and dealing with these issues is a serious concern in all of our communities.
I attended the Cheektowaga Town Board meeting on Feb. 26, where these issues were discussed in length by many people, including leaders and individuals from the African-American community.
Concerns such as these must be addressed. For the most part, I would like to think positive things can be taken from this meeting and hopefully racial harmony is somewhere in our future.
But I am appalled by comments that paint a broad stroke in describing the town's police officers as racists. I stood outside Town Hall after the meeting to hear an attorney, in front of lights and cameras, say he heard that "Cheektowaga police officers think that probable cause to stop a vehicle is just the color of the driver's skin."
Not only is this inflammatory and offensive, it insults me and my fellow officers who diligently serve this community. With a statement like that, this speaker is calling all police officers bigots and, worse yet, saying that the police make it a practice of violating people's right to be in Cheektowaga.
Is this what people who visit here and live here are to feel? That the very people they are supposed to trust will harass them?
If a criminal I lawfully arrest throws the race card at me, it does not excite me. Quite honestly, it is easy to ignore. It has happened many times. I am very proud of my duty to my community and a comment like that cannot upset that pride. But it is very disheartening to hear it from people of prominent status in our communities. I do not believe it helps matters that are such a concern to us all - it only adds to them.
It's my duty to uphold the laws. Law-abiding people who come to Cheektowaga to visit, shop or recreate are most welcome. They will be treated with courtesy and respect. But if people come here to commit crimes against others or their property, they can expect to be arrested, no matter if they are black, white, orange, green or purple. Color does not matter.