Law enforcement has come under the national spotlight since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis May 25 while under police custody, with the ensuing public reaction ranging from peaceful protests to rioting and looting.
While rioting and looting have occurred across the country, such civil unrest has taken place almost exclusively in urbanized areas. Small town America has had its peaceful demonstrations but little of the pockets of destructive behavior. Law enforcement officials in Huntingdon County are of course aware of the national attention but are focusing on protecting and listening to the citizens within their jurisdiction.
Huntingdon Borough Police Department (HPD) Police Chief Jeff Buckley highlighted the extent to which his officers are integrated into the Huntingdon community, which may provide benefits that a big city police force might not have.
“I think we’re a community-oriented department,” he said. “The majority of our guys are local and invested in the community, guys who coach Little League, participate in fundraisers and give back to the community. We know our community and I feel like we try to give back and try to be cognizant of people’s needs. I don’t feel like we see the problem some of the bigger cities have. But we are constantly mindful of what other departments are doing and learn from their mistakes.”
Another tight knit community’s leader, Mount Union mayor Tim Allison, who doubles as the head of the Mount Union Police Department, also believes in always looking for ways to improve how the department serves citizens.
“We at Mount Union care about our people and we strive to treat everybody fair. We will continue to do that and will be looking into better ways of serving the community. I think that’s the right thing to do,” he said.
State police Trooper Joseph Dunsmore, community service officer with Troop G which covers Huntingdon County, told The Daily News about a longstanding tradition established in 1929 that aims to instill an attitude of equality under the law.
“During an individual’s time at the Pennsylvania State Police Academy, we have an ongoing tradition. Every single day at the academy every cadet, whether from 50 years ago, 70 years ago, or one who has just graduated six months ago, recites the Call of Honor.
We do that in unison, as a collective group made up of many different races, religions, genders. One line in particular says, ‘It is my duty to obey the law and to enforce it without consideration of class, color, creed or condition,’” he said.
Regardless of the amount of social turmoil or what the public sentiment may be to law enforcement, Dunsmore says state troopers will continue to hold themselves to the high standards set forth by the U.S. Constitution.
“We recognize everyone is going through troubling time right now in our society. We’re still going to go out and do our job to protect our citizens, and protect our individual constitutional rights every single day,” he said.
Nathan can be reached at email@example.com.