From Jeff Carpenter, Chief of Police
Pelham Manor Police Department
To: Dr. Cheryl Champ
Pelham Union Free School District
November 13, 2020
Dear Dr. Champ,
On behalf of the Executive Leadership of the Pelham Manor Police Department, I would like to respectfully comment on the correspondence you have received, and sent, regarding your prior decision to ask staff to remove thin blue line apparel while allowing Vote shirts with the names of black individuals who had been killed by police to be worn. It is not my position to opine on the debatable topices of either but to comment on the statement made regarding the impression of the thin blue line flag. As we all know, the thin blue line flag represents law enforcement and that will therefore be my only focus.
We are certainly living in tumultuous and unprecedented times; however, we need to react to situations and climates with a more cohesive-minded, long-term and goal-oriented approach. Reflexive reactions may be well intended but often produce unanticipated and unintended results. These types of reactions can cause friction within the community which trickles down to others (in this case faculty, students, residents). This does not help solve the issues we all face and does not produce the desired results we all want for our community and each other, as human beings.
In one of your writings you state, “the thin blue line flag has increasingly been perceived by students to be threatening in nature, causing them to feel unsafe within our schools.” I was saddened to hear that on two fronts. First, because I am the Chief of Police and want no one to ever feel unsafe or threatened and second because of the word “increasingly.” I was upset because I was never made aware of this allegedly increasing perception. If it was increading, it was therefore measured and I was never informed of this growning sentiment. This should have been brought to my attention since I am charged with the safety and service of your facilities, staff and students at both Prospect Hill and Siwanoy Schools. In fact, during this calendar year, we have already walked through those schools approximately 170 times to ensure that everyone was safe. I was unaware that our presence caused, or had the potential to cause, persons to feel threatened or unsafe. In fact, my information is directly to the contrary.
I would like to bring to your and the School District’s attention some facts that directly impact the safety and welfare of your staff and students:
• D.A.R.E. was re-instituted under this police administration.
• Daily school walk throughs were initiated and instituted under this police administration.
• We actively participate in, at our own expense, the school lock down drills that the State mandates you hold.
• I have a State certified School Resource Officer on hand that you have access to, as needed.
• The emergency lock down buttons, at our police desk, for your schools, were initiated by and designd by this police administration.
• We continue to provide police escorts to your students to and from events for their pedestrian safety, as requested.
• Halloween gift bags and safety tips are delivered to every student. This idea was instituted under this police administration.
• You have my cell phone # and I have yours. We have always communicated, no matter what time of day or night, on matters of importance.
I say the above not out of arrogance, or out of defense, but out of purposeful, informative and factual pride. I am proud of every member of this department. They serve our entire community professionally and competently. If the above examples of service to your District are threatening or unsafe, please let me know so that productive communication can take place. Regardless, we will continue to serve every member of this community as is demanded in our mission statement (written by this police administration): The Pelham Manor Police Department’s mission is to provide professional and compassionate police service through partnerships that build trust, reduce crime, create a safe environment and enhance the quality of life in our community.
From Det. Paul Roberts, President
Pelham Manor Police Association
To: Dr. Cheryl Champ
Pelham Union Free School District
Dear Dr. Champ,
I have recently learned that, according to your office and the school district, there is an increase in fear within the schools regarding police presence and an objection to pro-police support symbols. If this is in fact true, I’d like to start off by saying how much this truly upsets us. I, along with all of the other members of this department pride ourselves in our perception among the community. We have taken this job to serve and protect our community in any way necessary to ensure the safety of our residents. A large part of this entails the protection of our schools and the student body. Part of our daily duties on patrol is to complete walk throughs of all the school buildings during the school day. During these walk throughs, many of the officers make it a point to personally interact with the faculty and students of each building. I personally recall walking through and stopping at differenct classrooms to participate in different activities, engage with the students and build a comradery. I’ve also had many parents in the community approach me and say how much they want and appreciate our presence in the schools.
I have also learned that certain symbols, including the blue line version of the American flag, a police support symbol, has been prohibited from being worn or shown on school premises. These symbols are banned while other symbols supporting anti-police sentiment are permitted. This aspect is personally very frustrating to our members. We are all for freedom of speech and expression. If in fact an individual does wish to wear symbols that do not favor police officers that is their perogative and we support their right to do so. Some individuals may have had a past experience with police officers that did not hold our profession in a positive light and this has caused them to have these feelings. We understand that this does happen and we work and train diligently to eliminate these types of interactions, but your actions of banning certain symbols while allowing others encourage a negative attitude toward police and makes it more difficult for us to complete the great work that we do, which ultimately is keeping you, your staff, the students and the district safe.
On behalf of the Pelham Manor Police Association, I would like to reiterate and express our overall disappointment with your statement regarding how we are being perceived within the schools. Ultimately, we would like to do whatever is necessary to change these views. Please contact me at 914-738-8816 if you would like to discuss this matter further.