Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Parents Speak

Police Chief Daniels suspended the PD's participation in both programs on September 15 without any notice to the parents or the community. His reasoning was that he needed to evaluate the programs and with budget cuts coming, he could not spare the officer assigned to the DARE program.

Last night, the parents, the kids, the community turned out to show the commission the deep support of the community for the DARE and PAL programs and to express their deep frustration at being left out of the decision to suspend. A special presentation, led by Jean Pankey, and supported by parent after parent, citizens without kids, and the kids themselves, got up to tell the commission how much this successful program meant to them individually and as a group. Many talked about the fierce dedication and practical administration that North Bay Village Officer Lisa Gittner brings to the program.

North Bay Village DARE and PAL are especially successful programs. The goal of reaching out and involving the community in positive education and activities is shared nearly universally in North Bay Village and Lisa Gittner has woven this program fully into the fabric of North Bay Village civic life.

The commission itself showed their support for PAL. Rey Trujillo has worked hard with the city manager to find $25,000 in a budget stretched near the breaking point to support PAL. George Kane asked the Waste Management Systems rep for their support of PAL and Mayor Oscar Alfonso understood the importance of listening to the community so well that he put a special presentation on an already overcrowded agenda.

It's clear that the community wants and values these programs.

The Chief's abrupt suspension of the programs without parental and citizen involvement or even a place to air their concerns was a misstep. As late as yesterday, he was still dug into an authoritative stance that he did not need to reach out to the community on this. This does not bode well for his relationships with the community.

The truly ironic thing about last night's special presentation is that this is the meeting that the Chief should have had two weeks ago. The information would have been the same but he would have been in front of the process, not dragged there against his will.

The community is watching closely now. Chief Daniels has to act quickly and decisively to regain the community's trust. The citizens expect a quick restoration of the programs. The parents expect to be involved in the evaluation of these programs and part of any future decisions.

There's a lot more from last night but it will have to wait until tomorrow.

Kevin Vericker
September 29, 2010

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