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Justice for Titasheen Mitchell Police Brutality!: You have to wonder

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

You have to wonder

FRED MUSANTE, From the Catbird's Seat July 13, 2006

You have to wonder (I did) if the police union's executive board members ever stopped to think about what they were doing before demanding that the Town Council throw Alvin O'Neal out of his seat.

Here's the problem: on Saturday there will be a rally at Town Hall, which the police officers will be assigned to manage. By manage I mean they will provide protection, traffic control and crowd control.

The officers won't be there to decide who comes or what they say. They'll be there to keep people and property safe.

Mayor James R. Miron will be there because, as he said this week, "I am the Director of Public Safety, and [the police] better learn that." In other words, their boss will be right there, and their union executive board has put him in a bad mood.

It is a good bet that the union leadership put a fair number of the other people who might show up at the rally in a bad mood too. That means the officers assigned to the rally are going to be surrounded by unhappy, unfriendly faces. And their boss, who will stand there and watch them the whole time, is not happy.
When the police say they often have to make people unhappy by doing their jobs, I know what they mean. Sometimes I have to make people unhappy by doing my job.

So if I think that's going to happen, I try not to make my boss mad at me at the same time.

I will give the officers some credit on one account: I have had to write things about them that probably didn't make them happy, but not one officer has blamed me or treated me discourteously.

Blaming the messenger for the bad news is natural. Sophocles wrote a play almost 2,500 years ago in which the messengers ran for their lives after delivering bad news.

You also have to wonder if Louis DeCilio thought things through before he declared he will not attend the cultural diversity training Miron ordered for all town employees.

DeCilio, the Republican Registrar of Voters, an elected official, so even though he's on the town payroll, it doesn't mean the mayor is his boss. Miron can't order him to take the cultural diversity training.

For the record, Democratic Registrar Richard Miron, the mayor's father, said he will attend the cultural diversity training, and the mayor said he will go too. Not that I thought the son would order the father.

But all that's beside the point. If I were in DeCilio's shoes, I would insist on taking it with the mayor, as if it were my role to make sure he did what he said he would.

When DeCilio gets on the topic, he lets it run away with him. Not even a minute passed before he was in high dudgeon. The cultural diversity training "is political correctness at its worst," he declared; O'Neal "plays the race card every chance he gets," the racism issue is like "Communist re-education," and so forth.

DeCilio is not a bad guy. He doesn't get along with O'Neal, but there's no state law that says he has to.

"This rally that they're supposedly holding is to protest police brutality, which I don't believe exists in Stratford." And there's no state law that says he has to.

"In the 1950s, to discredit someone's reputation you called him a Communist. Today, you call him a racist."

Another reporter stoked up a "so's yer ol' man" exchange between DeCilio and O'Neal that ended with O'Neal calling DeCilio a racist. DeCilio doesn't like it, but if a reporter dangles bait, there's no state law that says you have to bite.

The controversy even caught the attention of the New York Times, which ran wrote an editorial taking both officials to task.

The rising gorge we've seen, especially during this past week, strikes me as entirely unnecessary and very ill-conceived.

You have to wonder what's going on with the Greater Bridgeport NAACP. Since we're on the topic of folks aiming bullets at their own feet, it's hard to let that group slide.

I wrote an article two weeks ago in which I identified a board member of the Greater Bridgeport NAACP, Wayne Winston, as its representative in the rally planning. Then I received an e-mail from its first vice president, Rev. E.L. Smallwood, chiding me for inaccuracy. Winston does not represent the Greater Bridgeport NAACP, he said.

At Smallwood's suggestion, I called the organization's president, Carolyn Nah, and wound up more confused than ever. She said O'Neal isn't a member, nor is anyone in Stratford a member. "Why should I put my neck on the line if [O'Neal] won't support the cause of civil rights?" she said.

The Greater Bridgeport NAACP has been battling for years with the Bridgeport police over alleged civil rights abuses. ("Alleged" is newspaper lingo that means somebody said something happened but the reporter didn't see it take place so he has to indicate an element of question.)

Nah seemed to feel the same way about O'Neal's complaint against Cpl. David Gugliotti, the police officer who arrested him last March.

"The cop said he didn't do it, and Alvin said he did," Nah commented. "That's a disagreement between two people. One happens to be a police officer and one is a councilman."

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but I'm still surprised that Nah and DeCilio are on the same page.

I don't know if Nah is right that no one in Stratford is a member of the Greater Bridgeport NAACP, but if she is, this suggests the reason why.

My ear is to the ground. The Greater Bridgeport NAACP had a Board of Directors meeting last Thursday, and there was no vote for rally representation from the local chapter, which covers Stratford as well as Bridgeport.

The Greater Bridgeport NAACP has a general membership meeting at 7 tonight at Messiah Baptist Church in Bridgeport. Perhaps the subject will come up.

This column reflects the opinion of Editor Fred Musante and does not necessarily represent the views of Hometown Publications.

©Stratford Star 2006


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