When a Proposed Ordinance That “Changes Nothing” Changes Everything, for the Worse

Letter to the Editor:

   Quite a few years ago, the Salem News featured an article on a long-time Salem Hospital employee by the name of Bill Joyce who was awarded a citation by the city of Salem for his dedication.  In that article, there was a reference made to Mr. Joyce’s first encounter with my late grandfather, Salem Police Captain William Jennings, shortly after he had arrived in the city from Limerick, Ireland.

   The article recalls that in 1966, my grandfather, while on patrol, came upon a man walking (or ‘legging’ as they say in Ireland) in a snowstorm.  He slowed down his cruiser, rolled down his window, and when the man stated he was new to town and was ‘misplaced,’ he threw open the door and offered the man a ride home.  The Salem News referred to their meeting as “the start of a beautiful friendship.”  

   That is the story of a recent immigrant’s first encounter with law enforcement and although Mr. Joyce and my grandfather shared the bond of the same heritage, I choose to believe that their encounter is mirrored by the officers on the Salem police force today, more than 50 years later.  

   As the daughter and grand-daughter of dedicated Salem police officers, I personally, find it offensive that a city ordinance needs to be put in place to ensure that Salem’s citizens understand that the police department provides safety to the city’s residents with no regard to a person’s immigration status. That should be a given.  

   For an ordinance that virtually ‘changes nothing’ regarding the way the police department operates, it has changed quite a bit, the relationships between neighbors across the city. It is very disheartening to witness the way neighbors on one side of the issue engage the other, by name-calling and even questioning their morals and character, on social media.  That is not the Salem I grew up in nor is it what my grandfather would ever envision for Salem’s future when he offered kindness to a recent immigrant back in 1966.

Victoria Jennings







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