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Maintain high standards

The vast majority of law enforcement officers across the nation, and here in our local region, set outstanding examples for the public to follow.

Those dedicated individuals willingly put their lives on the line to shield others from danger. They work long hours in uncomfortable conditions to complete investigations. They face unpleasant circumstances and witness terrible tragedies while responding to calls for help.

Then, in their spare time, they participate in fundraisers and toy drives and spend time speaking to civic groups and students.

Unfortunately, as in any profession, there are a few bad apples among police ranks. And even very good, well-meaning officers can make mistakes.

Last summer, a Martins Ferry police officer, Tim Starkey, made a social media post about the Black Lives Matter movement that city leaders deemed inappropriate. As a result, the administration decided to fire Starkey.

The Fraternal Order of Police objected to that move, though, and an arbitrator was called in to settle the dispute between the city and the police union. That arbitrator determined that Starkey should not have been fired but should have been subject to a disciplinary process.

As a result, Starkey was rehired this week and must be paid his salary back to July. He also received a written warning for making the social media post.

Although Police Chief John McFarland said he would not have rehired Starkey without the arbitrator’s ruling, he expressed confidence in Starkey’s abilities as a police officer. He also said Starkey had apologized for the post and that he feels confident no similar incidents will occur in the future.

“He’s an outstanding officer who did something he should not have done,” McFarland added.

Back in July, Mayor John Davies said conduct like Starkey’s would not be tolerated. That is appropriate. Moving forward, any city employees involved in such conduct should be disciplined — but only in accordance with established and proper procedures.

Municipal leaders must hold those who are the faces of our communities to high standards.

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