Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Word from the Chief: Sandy Hook Tragedy

December 14, 2012

In light of today's tragic shooting of school children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut as your Police Chief I thought it important to put some of my thoughts to paper. I would like to begin by sending along my thoughts and prayers to the families of those who lost their loved ones and all of those in Newtown who have suffered as a result of today's tragic event. It will take much more than words and a great deal of time to heal those wounds suffered by these families today. I hope and pray for all of them to heal.

As Police Chief I often times wonder what has happened to us. What has gone wrong? Why do some feel the need to act out their anger and aggression on the innocent? Is it the fact that access to dangerous weapons, i.e. firearms is too easy in our Nation? Is it the fact that we have a generation of young people who spend an inordinate amount of time with violent video games? Is it the violence watched on television or seen at the movies? Some of these factors may surely contribute to such behavior, but I can't help but feel the issue goes much deeper than this. In my 34 plus years in law enforcement I have been witness to innumerable amounts of family violence. Violence that is not only physical but mental in nature. Children who grow up with such insecurity in their lives because of unstable familial relationships with those who are supposed to take care of them. Supposed to protect them. Children who have watched their parents fight and been witness to intoxicated ranting and ravings. Children, who go without, are hungry and cold left pretty much on their own to fend for themselves.

This is a cycle; it is not germane to any one generation. It begins at some time in the family and becomes learned; carried on sometimes generation to generation not by deliberation or design, but this is just what was learned from watching, seeing and being victim to. The end result is a weakness of the mind; an inability to deal with the daily stressors of life in a humane and civil way. The learned response of anger and violence becomes the way to solve the problem. Hence it is a societal issue. One where we fail as a people. We lose care and respect for one another and those closest to us. More over we have no respect in ourselves or our lives and begin to believe that life is cheap, worth nothing.

The underlying issue as I see it is our society's mental health. The inability of us as a people to help those in crisis before violence becomes the answer; before the anger boils over. When law enforcement looks back into the history of those who commit such crimes in nearly every case warning signs were present. These warning signs may have been a lifelong secret, overlooked or dismissed as nothing important, or they may have been improperly diagnosed and/or treated. The fact remains that the unknown variable will always be in the mind of the offender and until we learn how we can accurately read a person's mind we will never be able to say with any degree of certainty that tragedies such as those in Newtown Connecticut today will never happen again.

Stephan H. Semerjian
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