Guest View: We as police are accountable for our actions

Cmdr. Larry Ward - Sedalia Police Department

Recent events have saturated the media, especially the social media.

The outpouring of support from “our” community, hundreds of miles away from the areas on the news, is wholeheartedly appreciated. I do not condone thugs in the police profession, period. No one is perfect and sticking a badge on one’s chest does not make us error free. What I do know is this. If a member of the Sedalia Police Department makes a mistake, we own it.

If an officer does something negligent and they did that maliciously or with criminal intent, we address that as well. Things swept under the rug will always see the light of scrutiny and rightfully should. The problem occurs when people spread the news, usually through social media, that is either completely inaccurate or contains snippets of facts that are at best partial facts given in a completely random order.

I do not have a scanner, but I am constantly asked by people wherever I go, “What happened last night over on such and such street?” They then tell me what they heard and I then read the reports and statements only to find out it was something totally different than described. Sometimes folks get it right. So I ask that we be cautious with what we spread. It can be hurtful to all parties involved. Toothpaste once squeezed out is impossible to put back in the tube.

Misinformation is the same way. I am approaching my 28th year on the Sedalia Police Department. During that time, there have been a handful of people that have worked here that did not see it as the profession that it truly is. They saw it as a job and did not strive to do what is right all the time. That was not acceptable to me at the time. Unfortunately, I was not in a position that I could make immediate changes. Now that I am, I am proud to say that our chief, staff and line officers keep each other’s standards on alert.

No one wants to be associated with that type of officer. We work short rather than accept mediocrity. Last month we had recruit testing for two openings. We have had 20 to 100 applicants in the past. Three people showed up at this testing and we are doing a background on only one. It is a tough time to wear the blue, always subject to violence and/or scrutiny. The numbers of applicants nationwide support this downward trend in recruiting and retention. These factors make it very hard to recruit.

I have long believed that a police department should mirror the community it serves. This is an honorable profession and though we will never get rich, it is possible to make a living while doing this and hopefully change the path of some who lacked direction along the way. It has been difficult over the years to recruit non-white male and female applicants. I understand there are cultural differences and/or trust issues, but believing or stating that all cops are bad based on the poor decisions of some is no different than discrimination based on race. People should be judged or viewed based on their merit and individual character, nothing more. That is how I live my life and I am at peace with that. As a Veteran, serving two tours in Iraq, I preached daily to my subordinates to make life hard on no man and to put themselves in others’ shoes, especially while you are in their country.

As a proud American, I can only imagine the resentment I would have for others trying to tell me what to do if the situation was reversed. I also had and still have the same belief that if needed, my blood is generally universal to others and vice versa regardless of the color of someone’s skin. If we can keep that basic principal in mind, that we are truly not that different after all, should it really be that hard to get along? Holding ourselves accountable for our own actions, regardless of the color of our skin or who or what we believe, is crucial to coexisting in this ever shrinking world.

Again, thanks for the outpouring of love and support. We appreciate that all the time, not just in times of adversity.

Cmdr. Larry Ward

Sedalia Police Department

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