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Editor's Voice: Police need the power to issue emergency alerts

Posted 10/2/12

The Nixle alert system is a good tool for police to warn residents of an emergency by e-mail or text messages, or to reassure them that an emergency no longer exists.Middletown’s police department has used it in the past, but didn’t on Aug. 19 …

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Editor's Voice: Police need the power to issue emergency alerts

Posted

Not surprisingly, there is confusion whether the borough’s new communications policy prohibits a police officer from sending communications directly to the public, or whether e-mails and texts should go through borough director of communications, who is borough secretary Chris Courogen.

Going through the borough’s new route with information could cause a delay in an emergency, said Mayor Robert Reid, and he and Police Chief Mark Hovan sought to eliminate that step during a meeting of Borough Council’s public safety committee.

Reid and Hovan sought confirmation that the officer in charge of an emergency call determine whether to send warnings to residents. “If there’s a nut out there with a gun, I want to know so I can stay in my house,’’ said Reid – and doesn’t the world today seem full of nuts with guns?

Courogen said the communications policy, which prohibits department heads from talking to the media on their own, does not bar the police from issuing Nixle alerts when they see fit.

Borough Manager Tim Konek said a Nixle alert was not necessary on Aug. 19 because, in his opinion, there was no threat to the community. We certainly would agree that Nixle should be used responsibly, but we think Middletown’s police are capable of making such a determination – moreso than borough administrators. And, there’s nothing wrong with letting residents know that there is no threat to the public once an arrest has been made.

Council has taken no vote on this issue, perhaps because no public vote is necessary to assure that the Nixle alert system will be used to the public’s advantage.

We hope the issue has been resolved, and public safety triumphs over a desire to control information that comes out of Borough Hall.