Let's get a little history here, shall we, Company? I don't like to go into a situation uninformed. On Sept 2, 2009 Ms. Peake issued a two-line memo to members of the Wellford Police Department that stated "As of this date there are to be no more foot chases when a suspect runs. I do not want anyone chasing after any suspects whatsoever." Pretty clear and simple in my mind. She doesn't want police officers getting in foot chases after suspects. Fair enough, she issued this memo after an officer was injured chasing a person suspected of a drug related crime. The city had to pay this officer even though he/she was not able to work, and I would guess that there was a resulting effect on the city's insurance premiums. This incident came on the heels of two incidents in which two city-issued cars were totaled.
I get this. I understand the reasoning of Ms. Peake in putting out this memo, in making this declaration. I really do. I probably wouldn't do the same thing in her situation, but I can totally see where she is coming from, and I don't doubt for one moment that she has the best interests of her community in mind. It is taxing, please excuse the pun, for a small town like Wellford to have to pay rising health care costs, to have to pay for police officers who can't work, to pay for other officers overtime to cover those injured, to pay for new cars, so on and so forth. She is looking out for the personal health of her officers and therefore the financial health of her city. I would guess that most of the crime in her small community are of the petty variety: maybe some drug-related crimes, vandalism, theft, that sort of stuff. And it IS small town, so there is a reasonable assumption that if someone runs from the police they will turn up again shortly. Even the police chief in Wellford says that he believes the department can keep the citizens of Wellford safe even without the ability to chase down suspects on foot.
So, I totally believe that she was acting with the best intentions and with sound reasoning in issuing this memo. I, however, do take issue with the way that she handled some questions asked by friendly local television reporter Chris Cato when he interviewed her for this story. Just watch the video below from WSPA, the television station for which Cato reports, and see for yourself.
It's obvious to me that Ms. Peake is a plain-spoken, no nonsense sort of politician, and she is rightfully defending her decision. The problem here is that she is not doing a very good job of defending her decision, which in itself is just fine too, okay? Where she goes seriously awry, and gets seriously out of line, is when she begins mocking the reporter. That is just not right.
We have all been in difficult situations where neither side is communicating appropriately or effectively and all that does is sort of snowball upon itself until nothing is getting done. I think that is what has happening here, because she didn't see her decision as that big of a deal and she had this reporter who wasn't getting the answers he wanted. And he kept pushing, because that's what reporters do, until Ms. Peake made a bad decision.
When she began mocking the reporter she instantly lost all credibility, and her decision did as well. If you are a politician, which make no mistake Ms. Peake is, unless she somehow became mayor without an election, you have to be prepared to answer questions and give reasoning behind your decisions. Just saying you made this decision to cut costs is not enough. You have to answer the questions and have some sort of decision making process, some sort of logic to back up your decisions and actions, and you have to be prepared to give up that decision making process for review. One cannot, and should not, begin mocking the questioner in the way she did. It was inappropriate. It was rude. And it totally made her look like a fool. If I were Ms. Peake or a member of the Wellford community I would extremely embarrassed to have been involved in something like this, or to have my elected official acting this way ON TV! Hello! People far more important than Sallie Peake have taken falls from much higher levels for far less than what she displayed.
And it's sad, it's very sad. I have the utmost confidence that Sallie Peake did and does do a fantastic job running the city of Wellford, South Carolina. I really do. And usually that would cause some conflict on my part when it came to this situation. But in this case, it does not, because while she may be a competent mayor what she did on regional television while being questioned on a pertinent local issue was inexcusable and embarrassing, and should not be condoned or accepted. I wouldn't want that representing my town. Sorry. I would vote to impeach Sallie Peake in a heartbeat.