LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I am writing in response to commentary I have seen in local media outlets recently in the form of articles, editorials, and online forums regarding a recent well-publicized arrest made by Corporal Patrick Handy of the Sheriff's Office, and the subsequent "fallout" from the arrest.
The Fraternal Order of Police, St. Mary's County Lodge 7 would like everyone to know a little about the man behind the name. Cpl. Handy has been a police officer for 13 years. He has been serving the citizens of St. Mary's County for the last 11 years, all as a "road patrol" officer. He has twice been awarded the Sheriff's Office "Meritorious Action" medal, one of the highest honors bestowed upon a deputy sheriff. In 2006, Cpl. Handy was a nominee for "Deputy of the Year" for St. Mary's County by virtue of his selection as "Deputy of the Quarter" by his superior officers. He has also received numerous Commendations and consistently earned well-above average performance evaluations. Those achievements don't usually make the papers. Cpl. Handy currently works the night shift in the busiest area of our county and has dedicated his adult life to protecting the quality of our lives as well as our hard-earned property while most of us sleep comfortably.
Police work is not only a profession, but a calling. It's not an easy job, but it's the job we choose. We ask for it, just as anyone asks for his or her job. We are proudly held to higher standards than most. Each day, we are put in tough situations, and tasked with making snap decisions while under stress, which at most can be a "life and death" decision, and at least will likely result in being second-guessed and judged by persons who were not in the situation and who do not know precisely what transpired. I know this because as a 23 year veteran of local law enforcement, I am constantly on both sides of this situation. I truly cannot imagine another profession where an employee is subject to such intense scrutiny from so many people, on a daily basis. It doesn't make our job any easier, but again, we know this going in. We are not looking for sympathy, only for a little understanding. We are not machines; we are regular people who live in the community and have families, lives, and feelings. We are you! Although we all understand and agree we have to "police ourselves", there are no words to describe how one feels when your career, livelihood, and reputation are on the line while others try and determine if you made the right decision and why.
I know very little about the situation which has garnered so much attention in recent weeks. Most of what I know I have read in the papers or online, like everyone else. Even as a ranking member of local law enforcement, I am not privy to personnel issues involving other employees. Having said that, it would be biased and without credibility for me to blindly defend Cpl. Handy or any other police officer who finds himself subjected to a great deal of public scrutiny, when I do not know all of the facts. Using that same logic, I feel it is irresponsible, short-sighted and plain unfair for others to condemn him.
Cpl. Handy is a hard-working and dedicated officer serving all of us here in St. Mary's County. I am appealing to the good sense and compassion of the local media and, more importantly, our community, and asking on behalf of the Fraternal Order of Police for everyone to please "walk a mile in our shoes", resist the urge to pre-judge and condemn, and support Cpl. Handy and all of local law enforcement. We need you behind us as much as you need us in front of you! Let's remain united to ensure St. Mary's County continues to be a great place to live, work, play, and raise our children.
John E. Payne, President
Fraternal Order of Police
St. Mary's County Lodge 7
Great Mills, Maryland
Mr. Payne is making reference to the situation detailed in the article, Charges Dropped in Cell Phone Recording Arrest, http://somd.com/news/headlines/2010/12066.shtml, June 24, 2010.