The notion that leadership is best determined by example hasn't lasted for centuries because it is a fleeting concept. In any organization, the performance, actions, and indeed the spoken words of its leaders set a tone and shape the culture. That is especially true in a police department, where the quasi-military structure and chain of command clearly define the roles and responsibilities of its leaders, and with them, the expectations of those holding important leadership positions.
In other words, what our top cops do and say really matters, both to the men and women of the Falmouth Police Department and to the greater community. Specifically, other than the Chief, the three Captains in our department are the command structure. They determine the operational and administrative activities that make the department run. Our officers look to them to provide the daily leadership that drives the department - they look to them for support of all kinds - as bosses, mentors, and sources of support to shape the morale and mores of the department. I know the three men who hold those positions of distinction and honor in our community and know them all to be men of honor.
It is with that knowledge intact that I scratched my head long and hard when I learned of the recent deliberations of the Town relating to compensation for our police command staff. While we are closing offices for a day and shutting the library for a day due to furloughs, and limiting services to our citizens due to other budget woes, to boost the salaries of our Police Captains is ill-timed and ill-advised. At this point, let me offer my usual disclosure that my brother has put on the uniform of a Falmouth Police officer for more than twenty years. This issue, however, is not a blood-is-thicker-than-water issue, it is clearly and plainly an issue of fairness and common sense. How can the Administration, and indeed the command staff of the department, ask Town Meeting with a straight face for raises of more than $20,000 when our front-line responders, our boots on the ground, are suffering without a raise and without the educational incentive slashed by the Commonwealth?
I realize that our Captains have bills, homes, and tuition bills to pay just like the rest of us, but the aforementioned leadership thing suggests that significant increases at least be deferred to show some solidarity with the officers and Sergeants who don the badge and gun every day while making thousands less per year. Doesn't it make sense - both the common and fiscal variety - to take care of the officers making a difference on the streets of Falmouth each day, then concentrate on the management staff? That would give the town the ability to take a look at the precious few dollars available with a big picture set of money goggles, rather than doling out large sums for a limited number of employees, albeit well deserving and valued ones.
This is certainly one of those tough public policy issues that is tough to digest. Each of the three Captains has dedicated their lives and their careers to Falmouth - their collective experience amounts to over a century of public safety service. My teeth are masticating on this one, though, because the basic philosophy behind these significant increases is at odds with a basic sense of fairness. The minutes of the Selectmen's meeting at which this was discussed contained a welcomed pithy comment by Selectman Ahmed Mustafa. "If we can't give the Quinn Bill to all of the officers, we shouldn't give it to the Captains," he opined. Right on. The men and women of the Falmouth Police Department are searching for some light in today's dark budgetary tunnel. Their Captains have built careers on becoming the leaders they are today. Now is their chance to show it.
This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.