LETTER TO THE EDITOR: New Dover police chief will have big shoes to fill

As the new year dawns, Mayor Christiansen and the Dover City Council will be seeking a new police chief for Dover P.D. Let us hope that they select someone in the vein of outgoing Chief Paul Bernat. Though Chief Bernat’s tenure as chief was relatively short, he made a lasting impression. While not going as far as some of us might have wished, he implemented bold new programs to help fight the never-ending drug problem and to improve relations between police and those they serve. In some respects, he was light years ahead of many politicians.

Chief Bernat has “kept his thinking cap on.”

For example, by implementing the Angel Program, where heroin addicts and low-level heroin offenders can be provided treatment, not prison, he took a step which many more policy makers should follow, to help reduce crime and to save taxpayers the millions of dollars which we waste annually by incarcerating addicts.

In November 2014, the Dover Police Department installed a prescription drug drop-off box in the lobby of the police [station]; the box is the responsibility of the DVOC Unit. In two months, the DVOC Unit received a total of 104 pounds of miscellaneous prescription drugs which could have fallen into the hands of children or illicit-drug offenders. Who can say how many lives this program has saved!

Combined with police training concerning how better to deal with offenders, the Holiday Heroes program, increased involvement of PAL (the Police Athletic League), the Dover P.D. initiative of community outreach events, where officers go into minority communities and host basketball games with the kids, demonstrate the agility of the motorcycle unit … all of these have gone a long way in solving crime and increasing community cooperation with officers as they go about their daily duties.

Beyond this, Paul Bernat recognized the increasing role of social media in police work, beefing up Dover P.D.’s Facebook footprint. He also reignited the police cadet program, allowing 18-year-olds and up, that are successful in the hiring process, the opportunity to patrol the downtown streets of Dover, the library and other designated areas of the city, giving more of a police presence and security to the community.

Currently, there are nine Cadets that provide security to the businesses on Loockerman Street and the Dover Library. He has increased the downtown camera system from its original 35 cameras to an astounding 108. All of these measures have kept us safer.

Is Dover crime-free? Of course not; but it is a better city because we had Paul Bernat as chief of police. Let us hope that his successor is just as innovative, industrious, and successful.

Ken Abraham
Deputy Attorney General, 1974-1979
Founder of Citizens for Criminal Justice

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