Statement Made At Public Comment to Members of City Council 12/12/2013
I am here to appeal to you. Not in your role as local politicians but as ordinary, decent human beings no different than anyone on either side of the table. You will be asked tonight to agree with a monetary settlement in the case of Mr. Robert Petnick. You will be given economic reasons why this should be. The unknown possibilities of what could happen in the Federal District Court without a settlement will likely be the major justification.
In cases not involving the Public Safety I would not be here making this appeal. This case clearly involves the most dramatic example of an issue with Public Safety implications. I want to believe this allegation by Mr. Petnick that Ocean City Police violated his civil rights is not true. However, without a vigorous defense of these 4 Officers in Federal District Court a dark cloud remains and the Truth will be suppressed. Chief Callahan said he reviewed the Internal Investigation and was satisfied that proper procedures were followed. If we accept the Chief at his word, with no reason not to, it is all the more compelling to defend our Police Officers and clear their names.
The City’s Insurance Carrier will fund a full and aggressive defense of these men. But the Insurer will not cover damages if these Officers are found guilty in the Federal District Court. This should not be used by Administration to pressure you into agreeing with a settlement because of the uncertainty of outcome. If the allegations were sustained there would be grounds for removing such officers from our Police Force. This would give real meaning to the words “Public Safety”.
To claim Union Contracts would be violated if the City did not settle is disrespectful to you as intelligent, fair minded human beings. That argument is dependent on your blind faith in the false wisdom of an illegitimate authority.
So tonight in Executive Session you likely will be told the good deal the settlement would be economically (clearly not morally).
The fear element will likely emerge as fear has been used from the beginning of time to try and control people.
There will possibly be an appeal to your team spirit in going along with this settlement. But without holding Police Officers accountable who will be the next victim if the allegations of Mr. Petnick are true.
Please be the conscience of our community in protecting all the citizens no matter what their station is in life. Don’t give in to fear. If you do you won’t be able to connect with your heart.
Plato said: “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.
Steven Fenichel, MD