A Call to Respect Our Public Safety Officials


By: Marc LaPlante – Lawrence City Councilor – November, 2010

The following is from a prepared statement given to the Lawrence City Council by Councilor Marc LaPlante two days before the story above took place. Lawrence’s Mayor Lantigua laid off 25 police officers earlier this year after borrowing $35 million and gave raises to people in city hall but did not spend one dime of that money on public safety.

Today, I am bringing up a disturbing incident that occurred in our City since our last City Council meeting. Not only is it disturbing on its face, but it is even more appalling that our elected leaders have become desensitized to the violence on our streets, and have yet to show public support for our public safety officials.

On the early morning of October 9th, a brawl erupted on Doyle Street. 50-75 people were on the street and on the front porch where an “after hours” party turned violent at 3 am. In an attempt to restore order and avoid injuries, Lawrence Police Officer William Colantuoni was punched in the face, Captain David Kelly was hit in the head by a beer bottle, and Police Officer Carlos Vieira’s glasses were knocked off while someone was trying to unsuccessfully access his revolver.

Fortunately, the officers are all in good condition. But beyond the obvious strains the reduction of 41 officers have had on policing (and let us not forget that our police force has been decimated with an elimination of the various specialty units), what is troubling is that not a word of protest was stated against this display of disrespect to our police from our elected officials. Our police and fire officials are on the frontlines to protect us. We should be thankful for their service and supportive of their missions.

If this were Boston, you can be sure that Mayor Menino would have immediately called a press conference, displayed his outrage at those involved in the incident, supported the police officers who responded, and reminded citizens that everyone needs to work cooperatively with law enforcement officials to keep the city safe. Unfortunately in Lawrence, little is done to show support for our public safety officials. In fact, my fear is that our silence is condoning this lack of respect to our police and fire.

While the incident on October 9 did not take place in my district, the good, decent, law abiding citizens I represent are impacted when there is an outlandish display of disrespect shown to our police. It fosters an attitude that the police are part of the problem and that challenging their authority is acceptable and even encouraged. I find this behavior reprehensible and I call on the Council, Mayor Lantigua, and our state delegation to join me in denouncing what I fear is a growing disrespect to our public safety officials.