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Letter to the Editor: What is a Life Worth?

Dear Editor:
I would like to address some of Mr. Sawicki’s misguided comments in his October 15 Letter to the Editor.

In it, he complains that the city spent $45,000 to investigate complaints about the CPD and invite an expert third party to evaluate their current practices.

While motivated by last summer’s protests where young people were intimidated by police on rooftops with cameras and other surveillance, and a young girl of color was advised to “get used to being assaulted” for exercising her First Amendment rights, our problems with the CPD go back way further.

Six years ago, our 17-year-old son, Eric, was stopped by two CPD officers for a suspected vandalism incident. He stopped, gave over his license, and was asked to step out of the car. As the car was very old, his seat belt didn’t release right away. The officer reached into the car to drag Eric out instead. Eric had previously told us of several incidents where CPD had stopped and harassed his friends. In his panic, he drove off. The police gave chase and Eric hit a tree and died on impact at over 70 mph in a residential neighborhood.

In the aftermath, the news was posted on Facebook while the police were “too busy” to travel four blocks to our house. When Chief Toth arrived after six hours, he was quite rude. He lamented about how he was awakened in the middle of the night “for this.” He started interrogating my husband and me about Eric’s friends and activities, and was pretty evasive when asked how Eric could die so violently driving on a residential street – the chase part wasn’t forthcoming.

Our daughter tried to get some clearer answers as to what happened. In response, she was berated by one of the officers involved for asking for the dash-cam video, and told that this all happened because of “bad parenting.” There’s far more, but to summarize, the CPD was inconsiderate, insensitive, and crass on all possible levels.

Our son was a kind-hearted, funny, and bright young man. He also had his flaws and struggles like most young people. It is a documented fact that the frontal lobe of people under 25 is not fully developed. They can be prone to impulsivity and poor judgment at times, and most police departments have abandoned vehicular pursuits as a result, especially in cases where non-violent crimes are involved. Almost all of the time, the suspect is found or turn themselves in short order. Law enforcement then begins to sort through the charges – not so in Chelsea.

Lately, use of the word “divisive” is aimed at those who question antiquated ideas and practices, strive for more fairness, transparency, respect for American civil rights, and overall improvement of our social systems.  Mr. Sawicki uses the word to justify his contempt for OWOF and BLM – organizations whose missions are to include and enhance life for everyone.

He also thinks that the CPD has no problems whatsoever, even though an independent evaluation showed them to be compliant to accepted practices in only 2 of 21 areas, minimally compliant in 6, and sub-standard in 13. I’m not sure how that isn’t a problem.

To those like Mr. Sawicki, who have no interest in the human costs of social injustice, but would rather focus on dollars and cents, I must ask:

How much might Eric have contributed to the tax base, and consumer spending, had he been allowed to live another 7 decades – if you want to boil him down to that?

How many young families will not want to move to Chelsea, where their children are harassed by the police, and risk bodily harm or even death?

How many businesses will flourish when visitors decide to avoid our town?

How long will “qualified immunity” for law enforcement last? How long until there is real accountability sought in the form of lawsuits and settlements? (The Derek Chauvin conviction tells us not very long, at all.)

Does “going back to business” mean turning the clock back 100 years, Mr. Sawicki?

Is good leadership defined only by economical decisions, or actions that enact positive change on all levels?

Is $45,000 too much to save a young life?

Fortunately, these questions don’t have to be rhetorical.

All Chelsea registered voters can answer them on November 2.
Maura M. Robbins
City of Chelsea

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