LONG BEACH, NY – Acting Police Commissioner Philip Ragona and Chief Ronald Walsh, the two candidates for the new Moncton Police Department commissioner, shared their thoughts on the police force and the future of the department at a town hall meeting Tuesday evening.
Ragona was a member of the Moncton Police Department for 34 years. He worked his way through the ranks and retired as inspector and chief executive of the department. Upon retirement, he was asked by the city to become the director of Ocean Beach Park, which he did until June when he became acting commissioner after Michael Tangney retired.
Walsh is the current support chief for the Nassau County Police Department. He started out as a volunteer auxiliary cop in Moncton after high school and worked in the area for the NCPD for 11 years.
During the forum, both candidates answered questions about how they see policing and what they see as the future of the Moncton department. Questions were asked by the public in front of the forum which was held online due to the coronavirus.
Ragona claimed that he had been doing the job for months and was making improvements. When he first stepped in in June, he said he saw the department was understaffed, especially when it came to sergeants overseeing patrol officers. Ragona promoted officers to sergeants and gave the division first female, first female Latina, and second black sergeants.
“When I took over in June, the police were decimated. We were short superiors, we were little police officers, we had no command personnel. I corrected everything,” he said. “Everything is moving in the right direction and there is certainly no time to take your foot off the gas. We are on our way and will not stop now.”
Walsh was more focused on turning the department into an example for community police that would be a role model worldwide. Walsh wants to build and maintain better relationships with the community and instill trust.
“Trust is not something you give, it’s something you deserve,” said Walsh. “And I will use this pd to earn your trust every day. By being responsible for our actions, by including everything we do. Your voice matters.”
Community police and police reforms were big topics at the forum. Both candidates said they supported Governor Andrew Cuomo’s police reform plan, which ordered every police station in the state to work out a plan by April of changes regarding the use of force, police practices and more.
Ragona said he has already started making changes. He said he has made a concerted effort to reach communities in Moncton that feel ostracized by the police. The new sergeants will help process and investigate complaints against officials, he said. And he’s working on launching a program called Adopt-A-Cop, where officials visit local schools to introduce themselves to the children and build relationships. He also said he banned choke holds in the department’s use of force policy.
“Racism is never tolerated. That is why our officers are trained consistently and regularly, and our superiors monitor them,” said Ragona. “I really believe with all my heart that we have no racist in this police station.”
Walsh had a more transformative idea for the department. He said that for him community police was a philosophy, not a program. He wants the police to work with the community to be more inclusive and integrated into the structure of the city. He said that the sign that community police have been effectively involved in the department is for officers to monitor themselves for bad behavior and create a culture of accountability.
“Do you know what should have happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis? Those cops should have pulled [the other officer] Off, “said Walsh.” There should have been a culture where they grabbed this guy and stripped him off [Floyd] and said, ‘What are you doing? You choke him. ‘And they should have saved his life. It’s a culture of responsibility. That’s how you know We have to be there. “
Residents can see the entire 90 minute forum above. After the word, you can click here to fill out a survey about who you think was the better candidate.