Small-Town Residents Blindsided After Entire Police Force Gets Suspended: ‘It Doesn’t Add Up’

Ridgely is a small town on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Ridgely is a small town on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Strange things are afoot on Maryland’s historic Eastern Shore. And the people who live there want to know why.

Situated less than 10 miles from the birthplace of the great 19th-century slave-turned-abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the tiny town of Ridgely made news last week when its board of commissioners, without explanation, suspended the town’s entire police force, according to WMAR-TV in Baltimore.

“It doesn’t add up,” local business owner Gennie Woo said, according to Fox News. “Everybody is skeptical about what happened. We just want to know how and why.”

Indeed, the lack of transparency made residents wonder about the trustworthiness of everyone involved in the suspensions, including the police.

“We were blindsided. It makes you question the integrity of people who are supposed to protect and serve,” local spa owner Holly Justice said.

Longtime resident Laura Cline seemed outraged — even rightly insulted — by the secrecy of it all.

“What’s very concerning is that they didn’t communicate with us in an honest and open way,” Cline said of the commissioners. “Treat us with respect. We’re adults — thinking, rational adults who deserve the truth.”

The town of 1,600 residents employs only six police officers. Those officers were suspended with pay “pending investigation by the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor,” the town said in a brief news release on March 13.

Meanwhile, Ridgely officials have reached an agreement with the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office for additional patrolling inside town limits — an agreement set to take effect April 1, according to WBOC-TV in Salisbury, Maryland.

Ridgely resident Mary Fitchett expressed support for the temporary arrangement but also hoped for a more permanent solution.

“That’s a great idea, but I also hope they figure this out soon so that the town can also have their own force,” Fitchett said.

Happily, tiny Ridgely has experienced no uptick in crime since the suspensions, according to the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office.

In fact, per Fox News, Caroline County as a whole, including Ridgely, has long boasted a “notoriously low” crime rate. That includes four reported homicides in the entire county since 2000.

The suspension of its entire police force, therefore, might not mean an uptick in crime for the quiet town.

On the other hand, criminals love soft targets. As news of the mass suspension spreads, Ridgely could become more vulnerable.

Whether or not crime increases, the circumstances have left everyone feeling understandably uneasy.

After all, on a macro level, a self-governing republic cannot survive a legal system filled with irresponsible or corrupt actors.

Sometimes, of course, an individual’s rights to privacy and a fair hearing transcend the public’s demands for transparency. In Ridgely’s case, the suspended police officers might prefer to have the investigation’s details kept quiet, or they might not. Time will tell. And each should have an opportunity to answer whatever the state might charge, if anything.

Still, secrecy almost always serves the interests of the powerful. And free citizens rightly object to it.

At the Academy Awards this month, for instance, director Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster biopic “Oppenheimer” won best picture for its portrayal of the scientist who directed the U.S. atomic bomb project during World War II and then, after the war, tried to prevent the emergence of a national-security state devoted to secrecy at all costs.

He failed, of course. Today, the U.S. government simply classifies everything it does not want its citizens to know.

Should we trust people who keep their actions hidden? Cline asked that question about the Ridgely town commissioners. And she seemed downright indignant that officials did not treat her and other residents as “rational adults.”

Do free citizens deserve anything less? Or should they keep quiet and trust that those in authority will do the right thing?

History, both ancient and recent, should answer those questions.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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