A Thin Blue Line

As part of a growing trend around the country, Keene city councilor Philip Jones made a recommendation to the Municipal Services, Facilities and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday to paint a blue line down the center of Marlboro St in downtown Keene. This effort “would serve as a reminder that they (Keene Police Department) always have the support of the local community.”

Most attending the hearing spoke favorably of the service provided by KPD but there were some concerns over the precedent this request would create; what over city departments and organizations would want their own personalized line painted in the street next?

As the only dissenting voice at the hearing, I explained my concerns over this “every cop gets a trophy mentality.” Recognition should only be given to those who have gone above and beyond and never handed out simply because you wear a special uniform. This blue line creates a statement that “all” police should be recognized as heroes regardless of their performance.

The request was ultimately postponed until next hearing in order to gather more information regarding  the final cost and equipment needed.

Sentinel report:

A City Council committee postponed making a decision on a proposal to paint a blue traffic line down Marlboro Street to show appreciation for Keene’s police officers.

At a meeting of the municipal services, facilities and infrastructure committee Wednesday night, Vice Chairman Randy L. Filiault said city staff need more time to answer questions about the proposal’s cost and research how similar projects have gone over in other communities.

The proposal came before the council last week after Ward 5 Councilor Philip M. Jones filed a memo asking that city staff paint a blue line down the middle of Marlboro Street to show support and respect for the services provided by members of the city’s police department.

“Modern-day police personnel are working at an all-time high stress level. The blue stripe would be a continuous reminder of the community appreciation for all that they do,” the memo said.

Jones’ proposal comes at a time when police departments nationwide are facing criticism, including accusations of racism, and violence following numerous shootings involving unarmed black men during the past two years.

Officers are also increasingly being targeted by violence. Late Wednesday night, two Boston police officers were critically injured after a man wearing body armor and armed with an assault rifle shot them multiple times. In July, a man in Dallas killed five police officers during a peaceful protest against fatal police shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana.

The proposal was sent to the municipal services committee for further review.

Committee members all expressed their support for the project at Wednesday’s meeting, but some were concerned that other organizations and agencies in the community would feel left out by the project and want their own displays.

Keene Police Chief Brian Costa conveyed the police department’s appreciation for Jones’ proposal but raised the same concern.

“What happens when one of the many other worthwhile organizations … were to come to the council and ask for the same display. Where does that go?” he said.

He said he didn’t want the project to limit similar treatment for other groups.

He and other speakers at the meeting brought up breast cancer awareness organizations, the fire department and the schools as others that might deserve or ask for similar painted displays.

Jones suggested the blue line be painted between the yellow lines on Marlboro Street, from the intersection with Eastern Avenue to the intersection with Main Street. The police station is at 400 Marlboro St.

“Before each shift, everyone who works for the police department drives down that street and after each shift,” Jones said at the meeting.

Although he didn’t know exactly how much the project would cost, Filiault said City Manager Medard Kopczynski told him it would be $100 or less.

Filiault said he wanted to avoid taking money out of the city’s operating budget to pay for the line, if possible, and suggested taking donations from the community.

Keene Public Works Director Kurt D. Blomquist said his department could handle the project. But he said the city would have to be careful about carrying out similar requests for other organizations because the displays could become overwhelming for drivers.

“You talk about doing blue here on Marlboro Street and red somewhere else, pink somewhere else — that certainly could become confusing just because it’s not the norm.”

He said that to avoid confusion, many towns that have painted blue lines for their police departments have done so in downtown areas.

Many communities across the country, including several in Ohio and 72 in New Jersey, have painted blue lines to show appreciation for police officers, according to Jones.

He said that Keene’s blue line could not be painted downtown, however, because of the median on Main Street.

Blomquist stressed that wherever displays were painted on the street, they would need to be contained and “localized.”

Keene resident Conan Salada expressed his disapproval of the project Wednesday. He said individual officers “who go above and beyond” deserve recognition, but not the entire department.

“The entire profession shouldn’t be broad-stroked as heroes because of a uniform you put on in the morning,” he said.

At the end of the meeting, Filiault affirmed his support for the project.

“I, for one, don’t think painting a small blue line down Marlboro Street is going to have any negative effect,” he said.

The proposal will come before the committee again in two weeks, at which point it will decide whether to recommend the project to the City Council.

Costa said he will respect whatever decision the City Council makes.

He said after the meeting that the police department has a strong relationship with Keene and its residents.

“What’s happening nationally is not reflective in this community,” he said. “We feel supported by this community every day.”

By Xander Landen, Sentinel Staff

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