By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
City Council expressed strong support for the Ocean City Police Department Thursday night, saying that it would never consider any efforts to defund the department or reduce public safety in a town that has cultivated an image as “America’s Greatest Family Resort.”
Councilman Keith Hartzell said the “No. 1 reason” tourists choose Ocean City as their vacation destination and residents decide to make their homes here is its reputation as a safe, family-friendly community.
“You do a damn good job in keeping us safe,” Hartzell said in comments underscoring his support for the department and Police Chief Jay Prettyman.
During a discussion at a Council meeting Thursday, Hartzell said he was saddened that some communities across the country are defunding their police departments amid a national reckoning over police brutality.
He emphasized that he would not tolerate police misconduct, but said he has never heard any complaints about the Ocean City Police Department.
“In Ocean City, we have a professional police force,” he said.
The police department was widely praised for the way it handled hundreds of protesters in June during the peaceful Black Lives Matter march that ended in front of Ocean City’s Public Safety Building.
Other members of Council joined Hartzell in declaring their support for the department. They also said they would not consider defunding the police.
“We have your back,” newly elected Second Ward Councilman Tom Rotondi said in comments directed at the police department.
“We will back you 100 percent of the time,” added Rotondi, who formerly served as a police officer in Lower Township.
Rotondi called Prettyman “one of the best law enforcement officers I’ve ever had a chance to speak with.”
Echoing the comments of other members of the governing body, Councilman Michael DeVlieger praised the police department for doing “a great job.”
Newly elected Third Ward Councilman Jody Levchuk said he fully agreed with Hartzell’s remarks.
Council President Bob Barr forcefully said there will be no thought given to defunding the police.
“We’re not going to do that. That’s not what we’re about,” Barr said.
He continued, “We support our police to the best we can, and we always will.”
Councilwoman Karen Bergman called on city officials and members of the community “to lead by example” by supporting the police.
She urged everyone to thank police officers for their service the next time they see one.
In other business, Council approved the appointment of Brian Logue to the city’s Zoning Board.
Council also convened in closed session to interview other candidates for appointment to the Zoning Board.