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Cromer's apology for incident isn't enough

June 24, 2008

Hagerstown Councilwoman Kelly Cromer's recent traffic stop seems to have splashed a bit of mud on everyone associated with it.

First there's Cromer, who when stopped for going 43 in a 25-mph zone in the 100 block of South Walnut Street on May 26, apparently chose to throw her weight around, instead of accepting a ticket.

According to the police report, Cromer reportedly asked the officer, "Do you know who I am?"

The report also said that Cromer asked the officer if she would get a ticket or a warning. After calling his supervisor and being told it was his call, the officer gave her a warning.

Then, instead of accepting the warning gracefully, Cromer accused the police department of a vendetta against her because of her probe of the city government's practice of allowing some employees to take their cars home.

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She also accused the officer of lying about what she said during the traffic stop.

If she has any proof of either, she should reveal it now. If not, Cromer needs to apologize to the officer for saying that he lied and to the police department for her claim that there is a vendetta against her.

Those types of accusations do nothing to bolster the credibility of or the public confidence in the City Police Department, whose job is tough enough without ducking unfounded accusations from elected officials.

And on the same subject, Mayor Robert Bruchey should have jumped to the defense of the police as fast as Chief Arthur Smith did. Again, absent any evidence, it's the least he should have done.

Cromer deserves most of the blame here, because she knows better.

In 2006, following Councilwoman Alesia Parson-McBean's traffic stop for an expired registration - police took her to the MVA for a renewal - Cromer commented on the matter.

"The majority of the council members, including myself, do not find that we are above the law. We also do not feel that, as a mayor and council, we are more special than the average citizen," Cromer said then.

Cromer has apologized in an e-mail in which she said, "I apologize if my demeanor, tone, actions and/or statements on May 26, 2008 in any way contributed to the facts of a routine traffic stop being misconstrued."

When she refers to facts being "misconstrued," what she's saying is that her version is the truth and that the officer misunderstood her.

Officers on the beat should not have to worry that their supervisors - or for that matter the mayor - aren't going to back them up when all of the evidence points to them doing a good job.

Cromer and the other members of the council should re-read her 2006 statement, then resolve to make it standard operating procedure.

Then in an act of good faith, Cromer should get out her checkbook, and donate the equivalent of a speeding fine to the United Way.

That way, a little bit of good will be salvaged from this unfortunate, embarrassing incident.

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