Contact: Brian Kelly's Campaign
Date: April 15, 2015
****** PRESS RELEASE ******
Note to Press: You may print this as an entire essay or you may excerpt parts for your needs. This essay was written by Brian Kelly, a candidate for Mayor of Wilkes-Barre.
MAYOR AND COUNCIL HAVE FAILED IN THE PROPER POLICE RESPONSE TO OUR CRIME PROBLEM
Mayor Leighton; Councilmen Brown and George, both candidates for Mayor; and the rest of Council, have failed to act proactively when it comes to fighting crime. It seems everyone at City Hall--Mayor, Council and former Police Chief Tony George seem to think that saturation patrols are the answer to this crime wave of murder. According to the Mayor, they have been conducting saturation patrols for several years- and it has not been working. I am laying out a plan to fight for my City and my Neighbors.
The current Mayor and City Council members have failed in the proper police response to our crime problem, and more importantly, they have failed to professionalize the Police Department. Police professionalism starts with the individual and it carries on into the officers' interactions with their family, friends, and the public. It is a shame that we are reading about some police officers going to jail while criminals are killing people in our streets!
Recently we have observed a systemic failure within the culture of the police department and it is not going to change simply by having a new chief. Ask yourself, how can we expect our police to fight this criminal element when their own house is in such disarray?
We have shootings and murders, and it hurts us all to have City Police pleading to fraud. I am sure that most police are not affiliated with the tow truck operator and most are not engaging in domestic abuse. It is very important for those who swear to keep us safe to maintain their code of honor. Citizens need qualified professionals to lead the fix that Wilkes-Barre needs.
Our elected leaders have dropped the ball when it comes to fighting crime in the City. For our sake as a community, I do hope that the Mayor and Council reengage with a plan to fight the violence that has gripped the City. This is not an election matter. It is the survival of the City that is at stake.
It appears everyone at City Hall- in Council, and the press, think Tony George has the answer when asking for saturation patrols. The Mayor believes that the police have already been doing saturation patrols. Clearly if this is the case, it has not worked and we must ask the question- "Why has Tony George reiterated what the current mayor has said, and which the Mayor has already initiated?" Perhaps instead of immediately re-acting, we need to use our minds, think, and become a lot smarter.
The press loves to pick up its signals from former Chief of Police Tony George, who ran the department for four years from 2000 to January 2004. They like the former chief's advice about how to solve the city crime problem and they repeat his solution as if it were the Gospel. There is one big problem with this.
Tony George has not been a police chief since January 2004, and I have yet to hear the former chief suggest that today's crime wave is any different from how it was in 2003. As a former member of the Military Police, I know that crime is much different now and that is why I know that the City of Wilkes-Barre needs a top quality Public Safety Director with an extensive law enforcement background.
My first act as mayor will be to hire/assign a Public Safety Director (PSD) or a commissioner to oversee the police, fire, and city worker departments. My selection for a PSD would be a highly qualified former career police officer with a background in drug, criminal, and homicide investigations.
The PSD must have police supervisory experience dealing with undercover drug investigations, informant files, documenting expenditures, and working with other agencies. The PSD must have experience in evaluating fairly how police officers function within their environment. The PSD must be capable of identifying problem areas within the department and correcting those problems impartially, and quickly. In addition, I would expect this person to make suggestions on how to incorporate tight oversight of the other city agencies and possible evaluation of their value in solving our City's problems.
First and foremost, I would shake up and shape up our police department and address serious systemic personal issues that have allowed a culture of complacency to grip the department. You and I have seen too many examples of this culture and how it has played out in the press and how it has caused embarrassment to the City and the professionals within the police department.
The new Mayor of Wilkes-Barre needs to establish a violent crime unit in which only the best police officers are evaluated and selected. We need a top quality unit supervisor and officers selected from within or hired from outside the department. Members of this unit would be fighting violent crime, and that is it. They would not engage in domestic abuse problems or be engaged in minor burglaries, or traffic violations. They would have no such duties. Their mission would be to be the best police unit in the City for the purpose of fighting organized gang related drug crime and the homicides that result from such activity. Wilkes-Barre would be quite proud of this unit.
The gentleman I would select for Public Safety Director is as good as it gets. He has demonstrated his ability to investigate, document, and arrest criminals associated with corrupt organizations.
You all know by now that I want to be your mayor. I know that with the right team we can help make Wilkes-Barre a safe city and a great city once again. I live here and my children live here; and we want to remain here. When I was an MP, I carried a 45-calibre pistol at Fort Drum, and at Fort Monmouth. I would not stand here and tell you all that I know how to fight this vicious crime problem. However, I do know how to get the right people--the best people, to solve the problem for our City.
I have consulted with and have spent many hours talking to former police professionals and researching statistics. It did not take long for me to realize that we have a serious problem that our current Mayor and Council have failed to see. They did not act immediately and accurately. I suspect they thought they were doing the right thing. This is not just the Mayor's issue. All members of Council, who have not given the citizens their solution, need to keep working it through. Surely, nobody is suggesting that the proper action must wait nine months until the new Mayor and the new Council are sworn in.
We all know that when we're taking responsibility for something, we have to plan ahead--as far ahead as possible without losing impact. You have to think about some details weeks and/or months ahead of time. Crime, drugs, and gangs are not new to Wilkes-Barre. In this case, as in many others in life, nobody planned to fail; the City simply failed to plan. The response so far in this time of great need for action, has been unworkable.
Tony George, George Brown, the other members of council, and the Mayor failed to plan as a collective of elected city officials. It certainly is not something anybody thinks we should hang on the backs of the citizens.
Among other things, The Public Safety Director produces a major yearly plan. Quite appropriately, it is called The Public Safety Plan. Such a plan is a cut above any semblance of a plan created for a city without such expertise. City officials can never be caught off guard again. The most important position we can hire in the coming years is the Public Safety Director.
For this position, we need a true professional with a proven track record and great tenacity to tackle this problem. I know the gentleman who I would ask to take this job, and he has agreed to assist my administration. Long before I decided to make a run for Mayor, I had lengthy discussions with this gentleman and only when he agreed to help me and to help Wilkes-Barre; did I choose to make this run for Mayor of Wilkes-Barre. I think we can beat the bad guys by having better guys.