DEFEND THE POLICE RALLY IN SUFFERN

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By: Keith S. Shikowitz

The police have been a part of every society since man became civilized and started communities. They are necessary to the peace, happiness and security we all crave. They are there to enforce the rules set down by our ELECTED leaders, not by rioting mobs. They are there to, as it says on many of their vehicles, Serve, Protect and Defend. When dangerous situations are taking place in a community, it is the police who put themselves in harms’ way to make sure the civilian population is safe. Not every officer is perfect. There are bad “apples” who use the badge as a way to exert power over others. They are few and far between and need to be weeded out for the safety of the community and of the integrity of the police force. Unfortunately, we don’t know a bad officer from a good one until they do something that violates the rules they must work by and those of the community.

The reason people believe that all police are bad, is because the mainstream news media does not, or rarely touts the good deeds and job the 99% of the rule abiding, true public servants do. When all you see are the actions of the bad officers, that is what you are going to believe about all officers. Keep in mind, there are bad “apples” in every group in a society. That includes, firefighters, teachers, doctors, nurses and even athletes. We don’t hear about defunding any of these groups.

Why are people so worked up about defunding the police? If you listen to certain groups, it’s because many people of color are killed by the police. The claim is that they are unarmed and the police just shot them. The problem here is, the groups are automatically blaming the police and don’t wait for the investigation of the incident to finish before rushing to judgement. In many of the cases, the police were found to have acted appropriately.

The case that set off this defunding of the police was unfortunate and one of those that there is absolutely no defense for. Those officers, either through action or inaction caused the death of George Floyd, for no apparent legal, reason. Only they know what their motives and reasons were in this situation.

On the opposite side of defund the police movement is the DEFEND the police movement. A rally for this cause was held in Suffern on July 12, 2020. Izzy Landau organized this event.

The Mayor of Suffern, Ed Markunas, expressed County Executive Ed Day’s, support for the rally and movement. “He expressed his concern and his support. He’s in TOTAL support of ALL law enforcement agencies here and across the country. Thank You Ed Day for that support.” Day is a retired law enforcement officer from the NYPD, was on vacation and could not attend.

In an interview a few days after the event, Ed Day who was in law enforcement for 20 years of his life, first recognized the organizers for putting on the event. He also thanked Mayor Markunas for his kind words. “I am obviously very supportive of law enforcement. I have always been. It took a trip away from the county to keep me away from the event.”

“What I believe here is that this was an appropriate, well timed event. The narrative up until now has been one sided. Everyone has a right to protest. Everyone has a right to their opinion. That’s just the blessing of America. The fact of the matter is that this discussion, nationally and locally in many ways has been one sided. Much of what is true in law enforcement has not come to the surface. It’s been shouted down way too often. I am very glad that there was an opportunity for people to speak their minds and speak about issues that should be important to everybody. At the end of the day, law enforcement is that thin blue line which protects us and keeps the good people away from anarchy. When I hear things such as defunding the police and other commentary about training and what they do. I don’t think any group should be judged by the actions of a few. That goes for EVERY group.

“I am very aware of the challenges. Almost my entire tenure in the NYPD was in communities of color. Number one I have seen the pain and the anguish that hurts the many good people who live in the communities that have been depressed in many ways. I saw this back in the 80’s and 90’s when things were very bad. I certainly understand the challenges here. I understand community policing quite well. I was in one of the first community policing units in NYC. I was executive officer of the community policing program charged with extended community policing throughout the city. So, I get all of this. What I would say is that we need to take opportunities to listen to each other. There is A LOT that people don’t know about law enforcement if they are hurting, their demands will be altered quite significantly. When I hear defunding of the police and the alleged logic behind it, it runs counter to reality in many ways.” Day explained.

According to Day, there are times, that we can intercede. One example right now in Rockland County is, we have what’s called the Behavioral Health Response Team. “This is something that came out of this office that will allow trained therapists and personnel to respond to crisis situations as an adjunct to law enforcement. That’s some of the things that are really important. Because having to respond to people who are emotionally disturbed, often times a uniform will make them worse. Having trained people in civilian clothes, will serve to deescalate situations with those who are mentally challenged. It’s a very helpful thing to have.”

Day praised the people who ran and participated in the protests in Nanuet and Nyack as being a peaceful event to redress a grievance. He commented the same about this event. “Here in Rockland, I believe strongly that we have an opportunity to listen to each other and hear, truly HEAR what each side is saying because I see the protests here. The protests have been peaceful. The people who have felt wronged and hurt have maintained their composure by and large and did what Rocklanders do. They went out and publicly spoke about their grievances with the goal of redressing them. I see this event in Suffern as something very similar. People who went to this event the back the blue demonstration were looking to redress their grievances. They feel they are not being heard. Their position is not a part of the national narrative in particular. I think this is an opportunity for the entire community to do what God intended, use the two ears and one mouth to communicate.”

“The name of the event is Support our Blue.” Landau stated with pride. He said that the idea behind this is, with all that’s going on today, we just need to show our police officers that we support them in everything that they do. “We’re not going to let the bad people and the rhetoric that’s going around against our police officers, influence us. We will always support our police officers. We’re expecting about 500 people to attend. This is strictly a support our police rally. No donations or political speeches or agendas will be taking place.”

The only personal invitation that went out to a political figure was to the Mayor of Suffern Ed Markunas. Landau was not 100% sure if others would speak. If anyone decided to speak, they could but they had to keep political stuff out of it. Those who spoke came to me and ask to be able to do so.”

Steven Alpert, Deputy Mayor Suffern, said to me he wanted to make a statement about the event. “I support the police in what they do. I appreciate their bravery.”

Suffern Mayor Ed Markunas has a different view on Alpert’s statement of supporting the police, “His initial statement of his support of Police Officers doesn’t fair well with me. As a Deputy Mayor he should be showing support for the Suffern PD and it doesn’t show during our village board meetings.”

The areas Alpert had a problem was with who was asked to speak at the rally and the diversity of the crowd. “However, I want to take issue with this rally because number one, not a single democratic politician was invited to speak.” Alpert was apparently unaware that the people who spoke came to Landau and ASKED HIM if they could speak, not the other way around. “Second of all, I noticed that the group that is here, several hundred people, is not very diverse. There are no people of color in this group. (there were a number of people of color attending the rally) That tells me that the people who organized this rally did not reach out to the public as a whole and it is not very inclusive I’m very disappointed to see that.” He added.

When Alpert was asked, “Just because there were, according to you, no people of color were here doesn’t mean they weren’t reached out to. They could have declined to come or just had other plans for the day. Do you know for a fact they were not reached out to?” He admitted he did not know for a fact they were not reached out to. He tried to shift the blame for what he called the lack of diversity to the organizers, “However, if that’s the case, that means somebody is not doing their job correctly, because this would appeal to all walks of life, and not just one walk of life.” I tried to ask for clarification of this statement, but the interview ended abruptly as he ran away like a scared deer, when I turned my face away from him and coughed.

Landau disproved Alpert’s statement, “This event was not something that had been planned for months. The event took one week to organize. I really didn’t even plan this one. Originally, I was just going to get together with a couple of friends and just do it and it just took off. All of the surrounding police departments were invited to participate. I was on Facebook posting the event on all Rockland FB groups. I didn’t personally invite anyone besides the Mayor of Suffern to speak. Those that spoke came to me and ask to be able to do so. Everybody knew about it. Anybody who said they didn’t know about it either lives under a rock or doesn’t go on Facebook because it was all over Facebook. No democratic politician asked me to speak. If they had asked, they would have been welcome to, as long as they kept it non – political.”

On top of the fact that Alpert had no first- hand knowledge that people of color were not invited or told about the event, all police departments were told of the event, including the Spring Valley department which according to Willie Trotman President of the Spring Valley NAACP Chapter, in a statement he made at the vigil held for George Floyd in June “The Spring Valley police department is the most diverse department in Rockland County. We actually have more people of color in the Spring Valley Police Department than the rest of Rockland County combined.”

That plus all of Landau’s posts about the event in any Facebook group he found in Rockland including buy and sell groups, means that many people of color were informed about and were welcome to participate in this event.

A participant at the event who overheard Alpert’s comments said, “As long as there were Facebook posts and notification to the public, how did someone not do their job correctly? What are they supposed to do, send private messages to everyone in the village and surrounding area to beg them to come to the event? Anyone who WANTED to participate could have. Like I heard him say, he does not know for a fact that people of color or democrat politicians were not reached out to. If he knew about it, he could have asked democratic politicians or people of color he knew to accompany him to it.

Markunas further commented on Alpert’s statements, “Steve Alpert is a Democrat and if Democrats wanted to attend it was an open invitation to all. I was invited and also asked to speak. When Black Lives held their rally in Suffern, I was not invited to attend nor speak. I was not insulted or offended by43 that.”

“On the subject of speaking at the event, I also did view the video and Alpert’s point of view was not justified, any Democrat could have attended, he was there. Why didn’t he speak??? He didn’t ask the organizers as the other speakers did.”

“On his statement of diversity, why didn’t he seek out POC (People of Color) or BIPOC Black, Indigenous, People of Color. to attend.”

A man who goes by JR, gave his opinion as to why no Democratic politicians or candidates attended the event or asked to speak. “It’s not that they weren’t invited or welcome as the Deputy Mayor said. They didn’t come here because the purpose of THIS rally, demonstration, protest, whatever you want to call it, goes totally against their narrative of defunding the police.”

John Leone, a retired Corrections officer of 20 years also commented on the Deputy Mayor’s statement about no people of color being invited to the event. “Was there a notation that they were excluded? This was not a political rally, but his statement is a political statement. A lot of these politicians are on the fence. They don’t want to offend anybody and they don’t want to stand up for anybody. With all fairness to the politicians who were here today, I’ve lost my faith in politicians because of politicians like this, until it can be reestablished.”

There was originally a counter protest scheduled for that day. “I was sent an Instagram shot of a counter rally scheduled for that day.” Landau said. The post read:
#blm#blacklivesmatter#protest
#counterprotest#bluelivesmurder
#acab#suffern#suffernny#rockland
#rocklandcounty
No major counter protest happened, but there were three people across the street from the statue protesting against the rally.

Every other person who was spoken to or asked to be interviewed had only positive things to about the event. Jo Meegan – Corrigan a Trustee on the Suffern Village Council thought the event was wonderful and important. “We need to support our men in blue. Defunding the police is horrible. It’s unsafe. I don’t think it’s a fair practice. For my family and the safety of everyone, I think it’s important that we DO NOT defund the police departments and we give them the support that they need. A few bad apples do NOT ruin an entire department of good honest men and women.”

There were many retired law enforcement people there to show their support to their brothers and sisters currently on the job. Robert Bookstein a 35 – year veteran of the Spring Valley Police Department was one of them. “I came out here because I am a retired Spring Valley detective and I feel the police are getting a bad rap.”
One of the reasons the people in the defund the police movement say why this should happen is that the police are not trained properly to deal with the community. Bookstein explained about a program in Rockland County that he said was a very positive step in Rockland County to help citizens understand what the police go through. “Many of the departments had a civilian police academy. The civilians go through the police academy. They learn what cops are trained to do and they understand better. A lot of these people who come out against the police tactics or what a police officer does, it’s because they don’t understand it. If somebody really thinks the cops are bad, go to the police academy. Learn what they have to learn. Learn what they have to deal with.”

Landau addressed the crowd of a few hundred people. “I appreciate everyone showing up. The reason I put this event together, the craziness that’s going on today. I’ve been sitting there watching our police officers becoming victims of ambushes. Police officers being ridiculed in public. Law enforcement across the country being assaulted and made into villains. I just couldn’t sit and watch it anymore. Have people forgotten who ran INTO the towers on 9-11 together with our firefighters? Have we already forgotten? This is unacceptable!”

Teachers who many people say are also essential workers were able to do their teaching from home on ZOOM, Google Classroom and other online mass conversation sites. “The police officers didn’t get a choice to sit at home and isolate when COVID hit, as others were ordered to. They were out there running 24/7. What ever the call was, they didn’t hesitate to run in. They didn’t get to quarantine.” Landau stated.

Everyone wants to have a feeling of safety and security. The police are the ones who help us to achieve that. The big question in this defund the police is, ‘Who are you going to call when you get assaulted or robbed? Who are you going to call?’ “We’ve got to support our police officers across the country because there’s no other way. Just imagine of somebody at your job was caught stealing and now everybody is calling you a thief. Just because there’s a few bad ones out there, we can NOT let that reflect on all of our police officers. We have to put an end to this. WE HAVE TO DO IT NOW!! We need our police officers to know that we have their backs every day and every night. We back the blue and we thank you for what you do.” Landau concluded and introduced Markunas.

“Thank you and welcome to the Village of Suffern. We’ve heard of the thin blue line. What I see here this morning is a THICK blue line. I see hundreds of supporters that support our Suffern police department. That support our NYS Troopers. That support ALL of our law enforcement across this country. I am dismayed and angry about what has been going on here across this country, including NYS. It is unacceptable as Izzy Landau said, our great organizer.”

“Let us take a stand and let us say what is right and what is wrong. We like to live in the right, not in the wrong. We should not cower to mobs. We believe in the right of law and order. We will continue forever, I say, that’s my opinion to support law enforcement and support law and order. As we all know, that’s the difference between good and evil. That blue line that stands in between us. Those men and women in blue that put on that uniform every day. Not only do they put on a uniform, they put on a bulletproof vest.”

As you know and as we’ve been reading, up until yesterday (7/11), two more officers were ambushed and killed. Totally unacceptable. We need to protect our blue line. We NEED to back the blue. This is all about the blue today. Never forget that.

Markunas read a proclamation, that immortalized the Village’s support for the police. “I hope that all will recognize this proclamation in support and continue to support our law enforcement officers here in the Village of Suffern, in Rockland County, in NYS and across the country.”

Maureen McArdle Schulman who is running for Congress in the 17th Congressional District was next to speak. “I want to thank all of the police officers, firefighters and essential workers, nurses who worked through this pandemic without complaining, going to work every day, not knowing what was going to happen. Like every day when you go to work without a pandemic. I’m a retired NYC firefighter. I was hired in 1982 in the first group of women the fire department hired. I loved my job and I loved serving the people of NYC. It didn’t matter what race, creed or color they were or their socioeconomic situation. Just like you as police officers, we respond as if we were blind. We go in there because we have a job to do and we do it very well.”

“I am Maureen McArdle Schulman and I am running for Congress in Congressional District 17 and I want to represent ALL OF YOU! Let me tell you, as your Congresswoman, I would NEVER approve of defunding any police. In ANY WAY! I will support you to the Nth degree. It’s a hard job. My husband is a retired police Lieutenant. I know what it is like when your spouse leaves and you don’t know if they are going to come home that night. It’s a tough thing to do. It’s tough for a spouse and it’s tough for your kids. Everyone should be praising us for what we do for a living.”

In certain jobs, you are never completely off duty, journalists, police officers, fire fighters are three of them. “There’s no such thing as a holiday. There’s no such thing as a weekend. There’s no such thin as having your birthday off. There’s no such thing as your kid’s First Communion. You have to work it. It doesn’t matter. I want you to know where you stand. I know where you come from. I lived that life and I still do. Even though he’s retired. He plays golf now.” Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King said, “We need law and we need order. Politicians make laws and when you enforce the laws, they turn their backs on you. I as your Congresswoman would NEVER DO THAT! We make laws and you follow through on those laws and we’re going to have your back no matter what. We have highly trained police officers who swear to uphold the Constitution. We will always need police officers, no matter what the mob says. Thank you for you service.”

Mike Lawler, Deputy Town Supervisor in Orangetown is running to unseat Ellen Jaffee in the 97th Assembly District opened by thanking everyone for coming out and supporting our men and women in law enforcement. I am a former resident of Suffern and I want to commend the men and women who serve the Village of Suffern in the Suffern Police Department.”

He went on to expose to the crowd how our politician in Albany and NYC, have passed on the responsibilities of their failed policies to law enforcement and at the first sign of controversy that they throw them under the bus exclaiming to cheers from the attendees, “THAT STOPS TODAY!” He also said that we should be defunding and voting out the politicians who have created this mess in the first place.

“I’m running for State Assembly to represent Suffern, parts of Ramapo and the Town of Orangetown. I’m doing it because I believe in the rule of law. I believe in the men and women who serve in our communities in law enforcement and I believe in equality and justice for ALL New Yorkers and ALL Americans. Together we will get this done. We will keep our communities safe. We will ensure justice and equality for ALL!!

Bill Weber, a native of Rockland County who comes from a family of law enforcement officers and is a candidate for the NYS 38th Senate District continued the praise of the police and other first responders. He understands the stresses all of the first responders are under on a daily basis. “I want to thank Izzy for setting this up and to all of the law enforcement community here in Suffern for being out here for us today. You turn on the TV these days and we see a lot of things we didn’t expect to see in the past. We see people calling for the defunding of the police departments.”

Weber described the importance of the 911 emergency number and of the job the first responders do for the communities they serve. He questioned who would answer those calls if no one was there due to defunding. “That’s not a world that we want to live in. When we had September 11, who did we call upon? We called the police, firemen, the first responders to come. We always want them to be there to protect us. This showing today says, ‘Hey, we appreciate you. You may not always feel it, but we appreciate you and we will always be there.’ Like Mike Lawler said and Maureen said, you vote for us, you will have advocates in Washington and Albany, supporting you every day. Supporting you with funding and just regular support. You’re not the enemy. You’re the person we call upon when we need you. Thank you very much to the police here. Thank you everyone else for coming out today.”

As the pro police protesters marched back towards the police station after all speeches were finished, they were shouting, “What are we going to do? Back the blue!! What do we want for our police?! RESPECT!!! Outside the police station, the shouting continued adding BLUE LIVES MATTER!!!!”

As a sign of solidarity and support for the police, Mayor Markunas painted a blue line in between the yellow lines in front of the police station. “A symbolic gesture of painting this blue line will remind every police officer that drives in and out of this driveway every day, that they have our support. When they drive and see this blue line here in the Village of Suffern, they know the support for them is throughout this town. Thank you for supporting our police.”

As soon as anything is done in favor of the police or against the agenda of the self – proclaimed “opposition” it must be taken down. This blue line was no different. There was a petition at change.org to remove the blue line painted in front Suffern Police Station. Landau felt it seemed to be some kids who had nothing better to do. They complained that their negative comments about the event were deleted, which shows that people knew about the event before it happened.

“It seems like very young adults who want the blue line removed. My sentiment is that I support ALL police 100%. There is no reason to attack the police. It should start with the education system. The education system has failed them because when they are interacting with the police, it is too late. The system has failed them. Parental guidance, social services has failed them. They are taking their frustrations out on the police when they should be working within the community to improve the community. The blue line was out there originally and a red one was outside the Fire Department showing support for both sets of first responders.” Markunas said.

In this time of calls for defunding police across the country, Suffern is increasing its police budget. “In our last meeting I authorized the Chief to send out canvass letters to search for new hires. To ensure that our community is properly staffed and policed.”

Timothy J. Connolly served 57 years in law enforcement. 24 with the NYPD and 33 with the NYS Attorney General’s office in organized crime. “The incident in Minneapolis that started this whole thing is a disgrace. That guy should get everything he deserves coming to him. No matter how harsh it is. He should be charged with first degree murder because that’s what it was. The event here today was very American. Which is good. It’s a good sign. This is a very good community here. Rockland County is a good community. This is a real pro – American area here which is nice.”

Suffern Police Chief C. Osborn thanked a passing group of people for coming to the rally. “I think the turnout was incredible for a Sunday morning. I’m even prouder that it was set up by residents. It wasn’t a police department or government sponsored event. It was set up by residents in the Village of Suffern and you can see by the people still here, how many of them came out. It was an unbelievable turnout. It was a massive turnout which I am extremely impressed by.”

He added, “Defunding the police is an absolutely insane idea. It’s not just because of a political view. It’s from 33 years of policing last 16 as Chief. To defund the police, all you’re doing is taking away safety. They’re going to make people less safe. It’s common sense. Can you revamp things? Absolutely.”

William Osborn a rank and file officer said, “It’s nice to see people come out and support us, especially in hard times. It doesn’t matter what group you belong to. It’s just nice to see people getting along with no fighting. It’s just nice to see there’s support of all kinds. This event made me feel that people in Suffern and across the county support us. It’s just a nice change of pace. In today’s world with all of the negativity, it’s just nice to see something positive. I like that the Village is increasing the police force. We need the manpower. It’s as simple as that. With more officers, its more safety for the community and for us.”

Landau’s final thought on the event was that it was phenomenal. It went better than expected. It was an amazing turnout. “I got amazing feedback. Got probably 100 private messages afterwards on Facebook. Only about three or four of them that were negative and derogatory remarks. The rest were all positive.”