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Canton Police Thankful for Community’s Support

July 15, 2016 Uncategorized No Comments
Two young girls present Sgt. Derek Messier and Officer Adam Gompper. Photo courtesy of Canton Police Department

Two young girls present Sgt. Derek Messier and Officer Adam Gompper.
Photo courtesy of Canton Police Department

By John Fitts

CANTON – No matter where they serve, police officers know there is always that possibility of walking into a dangerous situation. Whether it’s a medical call, drug stop, domestic disturbance or robbery, the potential for escalation is there.

But for Canton Sgt. Mark J. Penney, the events of July 7 – when a gunman murdered five Dallas officers and injured 9 others – were particularly disturbing.

“The last thing on your mind, you think is going to happen, is you’re going to be sniped in your own country,” Penny said. “I was in the military. You expect that in a war zone but not in your own city; not when you’re out there trying to help keep the peace so to speak. So that was a shock.”

Penny said such an incident and coverage of it can also lead to a lot of mixed feelings and in many ways, the officers feel a connection. It’s something that’s hard to explain, Penney said. And then there can be misconceptions about the role of officers and the threat of other incidents.

“I think everybody, in their on personal way, has been adversely affected by seeing five innocent police officers lose their lives, doing their jobs,” said Canton Police Chief Christopher Arciero.

“That scenario in Dallas was a game changer for what the officer is expected to encounter at a peaceful demonstration and we certainly don’t think that’s the trend that anyone’s going to accept,” Arciero added.  “The officer’s lives are too important, what they do for society and just as human beings, to have to be worrying bout being intentionally targeted by people who no regard for human life or the law enforcement professionals who do their job every day.”

Penny didn’t find out about the incident until the next morning. He said it was even harder for those who learned of it while on duty.

But while Canton officers mourn for those in Dallas, they’ve been heartened by a recent show of support in town.

Residents have brought in flowers, sent emails, stopped officers on the street, delivered baked goods, made cards and reached out via letters and social media posts. Town officials and several municipal employees have also done so.

“On behalf of the members of the Canton Police Department, I want to thank the Canton community and citizens who have taken the time to reach out to us through phone calls, emails, letters and delivery of food items expressing their gratitude and kind thoughts in light of the tragedy in Dallas,” Arciero said. “The Canton Police Department appreciates the support from the community and is honored and privileged to serve and protect such an honorable and engaged community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Dallas police officers and their families.”

For the officers on duty, the incident caused some feelings that officers aren’t supported, Penney said. But the positive outreach here and elsewhere makes a difference, he said.

“We always love to see that,” Penney said. “Even a friendly smile and wave is a gesture that is taken to heart.”

Penny said he isn’t at all shocked by the community’s support, something he also saw after 9/11.

“I can’t say I’m surprised,” he said. “The community always backed us on pretty much everything.”

The Dallas incident came during a Black Lives Matter protest of recent incidents of shooting of minorities by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana.

Penney said people have every right to protest peacefully but he and Arciero, do however, feel that people should allow the facts to come out in relation to these incidents of alleged police misconduct.

“I have no problem with that as long as they respect other people and they do it without harming other people. Protest whatever you want. Just do it peacefully,” Penney said. “As a police officer, we deal with facts, just as a human beings, we know there are two sides to everything. I personally don’t like to talk about a subject until I know all the facts and it seems like many people are quick to jump the gun. You have to let the justice system play out. If the officers did what they did through a mistake or lack of training, or whatever the context that this occurred in, you have to let the system play it out.”

“Like any other profession in this world there are mistakes, where or not it’s a mistake because of negligence or intent,” Arciero said. “The facts will bear those conclusions out.”

Mistakes are made, Arciero said, but he contends that even videos don’t always tell the whole story. Their not three-dimensional, are generally from one angle and often don’t pick up subtle actions, he said.

“A video gives us just limited perspective of an event,” Arciero said.  “There should not be a rush to judgement about anything that’s seen on video.”

“When you start taking the law into your own hands you don’t become any better than what you think these people are doing,” Penney added. “And then to gun down innocent people, that’s just completely insane.”

Both men said Canton might be a much smaller and different town that Dallas but both emphasized their thoughts are with that community and those families – as well as the people of Canton.

“I just think it shows the character of the Canton Community, as far removed as we are from the Dallas scenario, for them to reach out to show their support to the Canton police. It means a lot to the members of the Canton Police Department,” Arciero said. “At the end of the day, the Canton officers despite this tragedy and the sadness that surrounding the Dallas incident, they’re going to go out and do their job. That’s the commitment they’ve made – to protect and serve this community.”

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