Ease up, chief
We admire Palisade Police Chief Tony Erickson’s high standards. He’s obviously very concerned about his officers projecting a professional, no-nonsense, law-and-order image.
Still, we think he was too quick to fire Edward Reinhardt following the officer’s impromptu karaoke performance in The Livery Saloon on May 23.
By all accounts, Reinhardt’s off-the-cuff performance of “Bad Boys,” the theme song for the television show “COPS,” was a hit with patrons. Many expressed surprise that a quick and harmless performance could cost Reinhardt his job. No doubt several of those patrons feel some responsibility for Reinhardt’s firing because they egged him on and cheered when he took the microphone.
Several witnesses said Reinhardt endeared himself to the crowd and scored some public relations points for the department. Indeed, the Sentinel’s Paul Shockley reported that nothing in Reinhardt’s performance could have been painted as inappropriate or disrespectful from the perspective of those in the bar that night.
“He took a couple minutes to show himself to be a human being instead of a robot with a badge and a gun,” said Mark Bartholomew, a doorman at the bar.
Erickson didn’t see it that way. He fired Reinhardt that night.
“This is not part of the job I enjoy but it was something that needed to be done,” he said.
Point made. Erickson is not going to tolerate his officers fraternizing with bar patrons. With a brewery, a distillery and a quaint downtown featuring bars and eateries, Palisade is something of a destination for Friday night revelers. But it’s hardly New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Reinhardt was apparently following department protocol in performing a “walk-through” inside the Livery. One of Erickson’s policing strategy directives is for police to be visible in the community.
Apparently just not that visible.
The bottom line is that Erickson can run his department as he sees fit. But we think it’s worth saying that a small police force in a small town with a low crime rate has some latitude in how it implements its policing strategy. It can be friendly and accessible without being ineffectual. Overly rigid procedure seems at odds with Palisade’s down-home flavor. Erickson should recognize the opportunity to earn some good will among those he’s sworn to protect and serve by giving Reinhardt a second chance with some clear guidelines.
A petition is circulating around the town asking the chief to reinstate Reinhardt. Petitioners plan to present signatures to the town board.
Erickson has 30 years of law enforcement experience in much bigger communities. No number of petition signature will likely make a difference for someone operating on principle. But it’s worth asking: What would Andy Taylor do?