A few days ago, the Press Club of Toledo held a forum on policing and community relations in Toledo.
There were several speakers, and all were good, but the two stars of the morning were the mayor, Mike Collins, and the chief of police, William Moton.
This is a topic we have all heard talked to death: How can the police force better work in harness with the neighborhoods, the interest groups, and, especially, the vulnerable, of the city?
And yet, on this day, I don’t think anyone in the room felt tired or cynical. Because the mayor, the chief, and their team really seemed to be returning to an old (indeed old-school) concept of policing. Call it “community policing” or call it “beat integrity,” as the mayor does.
The idea is to have cops visible in neighborhoods, walking beats, getting to know local small businesses, and winning the trust of neighborhoods. You might even call it “community connection.”
Everything old is new again. People seem to like this concept of policing.
Eighty percent of what a police officer does, said the mayor, a former police officer, is not violent and not dramatic or romantic. It is, he said, “social work.”
The mayor and his team also remain intent on integrating the mayor’s “tidy towns” cleanup idea, by integrating housing inspection with policing.
We’ll see. It will be harder to do than conceptualize. But, as the mayor says, “microwave solutions” to urban problems do not exist.
I could not help thinking about how Mr. Collins and Mr. Moton were two people who were not supposed to be there. Mr. Collins was a dark horse candidate for mayor, and Mr. Moton was never thought of as a potential chief — he was a well-respected lieutenant near retirement. The mayor elevated him based on the integrity he saw in him. It is an integrity which radiates from the man.
I thought about how these two unforeseen leaders, (the chief just turned 69 and the mayor turns 70 at the end of the month) seemed totally comfortable in their roles. Most people, though some are a bit surprised, think both have done fine jobs so far.
Partly that’s because, I suspect, neither wants any further job beyond this. Both are free to do right, as they see the right, because they are beyond ambition. And partly it is because both are old enough to know when not to engage; when not to speak.
Years ago, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the great American maestro, Robert Shaw, was in Washington conducting a Beethoven festival with the National Orchestra. A reporter asked Mr. Shaw what he thought of the Bill Clinton-Monica affair. “Now wouldn’t I be a fool, a perfect fool,” Mr. Shaw replied, “if I took that bait”?
I admired the way Mayor Collins stayed out of the Larry Sykes fiasco.
I watched these two old lions enjoying their last act and thought: There is something to be said for experience.
Someone asked Jerry Brown what he learned being a son of a governor, governor himself, mayor, candidate for president, state attorney general, and governor again. “You learn how to make the moves,” he said.
Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6266.