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The Neighborhood Watch.

Fifty years before Middletown became a city, night watchmen walked the streets in civilian clothes on guard for petty thievery and assaults. In 1888, Middletown was established, and eight uniformed officers banded together to form the Middletown Police Department. Their primary duties included meeting every train, dispersing crowds, requiring loafers and loungers to move on, and preventing newspaper delivery boys from shouting their papers on Sundays. With only eight officers, the police relied on the community for help with emergencies, disturbances, and many other matters of public safety. Often, they blew their whistles to summon assistance.

Much has changed in the 116 years since the Middletown Police Department was founded. The city's population has grown from about 2,000 to over 25,000 people, and the police force has grown from 8 officers to 65 sworn officers and 15 civilian support staff today.

Chasing horses and meeting trains has been replaced by rushing to 911 calls in a radio car. Technology, forensic science, and terrorism alerts all are part of the new fabric of policing. The professionalism, training, and dedication required by the men and women who perform as Middletown police officers today have grown exponentially. In almost two centuries of policing, there is one thing that has not changed throughout the history of the Middletown Police Department, one constant that has never faltered or diminished. That one vital thing is the trust we proudly share with the community.

Webster's dictionary defines trust as a charge or duty imposed in faith or confidence or as a condition of some relationship. As chief, I am grateful for the trust that has developed between us. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property." What are we, the police, but extensions of you, the community. Thomas Jefferson also said, "I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but with the people themselves." We have no greater power than the trust that you place in us, a trust we proudly accept and greatly respect. We are ever mindful of our duty to represent the best interest of the entire community.

We rely on you, the community; we depend on you, the community; we are beholden to you, the community. In fact, we could not survive without the trust and selfless support that the Middletown community and the Neighborhood Watch always has given us.

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We are selected from among the community we serve and we take an oath that bestows a public trust on us. That public trust is a special thing and one that no officer ever should take lightly. When you joined your local Neighborhood Watch group, you too demonstrated your commitment to justice for all citizens of Middletown. John F. Kennedy once said, "(America) was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened." Together, we form a unified body of trust far greater and stronger than any of our adversaries, greater than any gang or common criminal could ever hope to achieve.

Each Middletown police officer is part of a highly skilled group of dedicated individuals who handle over 20,000 calls for service each year. The average officer handles anything from a domestic dispute to a serious car accident to a lost or runaway child, all within the first few hours of the shift.

In the often hectic, day-to-day operations that turn the gears of police service, the community is the fuel that feeds us and the map that guides us. You truly are our eyes and ears. You determine what the needs of Middletown are and how to best keep Middletown a safe place to live and work. Crime is an evil disease that spreads if left unchecked. An old Chinese proverb reads, "Laws control the lesser man. Right conduct controls the greater one." The Neighborhood Watch forges partnerships with the police and the community and succeeds in fighting the isolation that criminal conduct fosters and preys upon. The help you have given us over the years has been invaluable and we would not be able to function without it. We are grateful and we thank you.

The Neighborhood Watch is a perfect example of good citizens at their best. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, "People who have a stake in society, protect that society, but when they don't have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it." The Middletown Police Department is very fortunate to enjoy the unwavering support of so many dedicated citizens from throughout the community in its Neighborhood Watch program. The Neighborhood Watch is exactly what we have needed in the past and it continues to be very much a necessity in Middletown today.

The dynamics of law enforcement have placed increased demands on the police and the community as well. In addition to our concern for burglary and larceny, we have a renewed vigilance for terrorism, child abductions, gangs, and violent crime. Once again, we are powerless without your support and ineffective without your assistance. Your commitment to the Neighborhood Watch program is a testament to your commitment to Middletown. Your participation in the Neighborhood Watch groups is exactly what Middletown needs to form a united front against crime and the fear it creates.

We may not carry whistles anymore, but you always have been there when we have needed you to lend your support, and we sincerely appreciate all you have done for us. The trust we share must always be our source of strength against crime. Together, we will continue to make Middletown a safe and wonderful place for all to enjoy.

Chief Byrne of the Middletown, New York, Police Department delivered this speech to the Middletown City-wide Neighborhood Watch.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Federal Bureau of Investigation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Notable Speech
Author:Byrne, Matthew T.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Article Type:Transcript
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Sep 1, 2004
Words:972
Previous Article:Testifying in the theater of the courtroom.
Next Article:The Bulletin notes.
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