Poor Politics in Holyoke

Poor Politics in Holyoke

Dec 24, 2014

Although I have a love for politics, I usually do not share many of my political views on this blog unless they directly relate to the industry.  This matter, however, is close enough to share some comments on.  Four years ago, I would have never even thought to write this post because it would have been too close to home, but looking at things from a distance can shed a different light on certain situations and offer new opportunities to comment.

Earlier in the month, Holyoke, Massachusetts City Councilor At Large Rebecca Lisi along with one of her city council colleagues was a participant in a “From Ferguson to NYC to Holyoke” protest march in downtown Holyoke.  The stated mission of the protest was “to protest the recent shootings of unarmed black men, women, and youth, and support the call for reforming problematic police practices.”  According to Lisi’s blog her reason for marching was to show her 14 month old son that “human beings have the ability to affect extraordinary changes.”   The march drew criticism due to the crowd chanting, among other things, the title of an 80’s rap song that many see as being derogatory towards police.  I’m sure you know what I am talking about.  I am not the only one who finds her mere participation in such a protest a problem.  The Holyoke Police Union expressed their displeasure with Lisi and her colleague Jossie Valentin.

Lisi denies taking part in the chant and said that it “stopped quickly.”  She goes on, however, to praise the Holyoke police department about their continued commitment to community policing, which presents a sizeable contradiction.  She protested police actions and how they relate to her city and then goes on to say that her city’s police department takes the approach that they should take.  She is either very confused or was just protesting for the sake of protesting.

Lisi is in a family populated by two generations of New York police Department officers, and says that she has “. .  . a deep appreciation for the hard work and risks that police officers take on every day in the field.”  Why, then, was she a no show at a candlelight vigil for a police officer that lost his life in the line of duty fifteen years ago?

Holyoke MA

Holyoke City Councilwoman Rebecca Lisi.

In December of 1999, I had just taken my classroom final for my paramedic program.  I was preparing to start my clinical time in early January, and was on an abbreviated Christmas break from college.  A handful of my classmates though were juggling school with their careers as EMTs serving a variety of communities around Springfield.  Many of them spent time in Holyoke, a smaller city just north of Springfield.

On the morning of December 22nd 1999, Officer John Dinapoli was responding to a call when he was shot by 27-year old Eddie Morales who was being followed by DiNapoli when he turned and fired shots into DiNapoli’s car.  Morales was later caught in Pennsylvania and sentenced to life in prison.

This past Monday night on the fifteenth anniversary of his death, roughly 300 people including members of Officer DiNapoli’s family gathered around a statue erected across the street from the Holyoke Police Station and held a candlelight vigil in his memory.  All of this was taking place on the heels of the cold blooded murder of two New York City police officers just two days prior.  According to reports that I saw online, Councilwoman Lisi was nowhere to be found.  Valentin, however, made an appearance.

In the course of just two weeks, Rebecca Lisi marched in protest against actions taken by police, praised the conduct of her city’s police department, and then failed to attend a memorial service for a brave officer who made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting the people who she represents.  She claims that she identifies with the risks that police officers take.  She takes great pride in her legacy as the child and grandchild of a New York City police officer but she chose not to support Officer DiNapoli’s family.

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21 year Holyoke Police Officer John DiNapoli who lost his life in the line of duty on December 22, 1999.

I have talked with Councilwoman Lisi via social media on a few separate occasions in the past and prior to today, i viewed her as a strong community leader.  I am profoundly disappointed in her.  In my twelve years working in the greater Springfield area I lost count of the number of difficult situations and shows of disrespect that not only police officers but public safety professionals were forced to deal with in the community.  As a family member of police officers, I would think that Lisi is well aware of what they dealt with during their careers.  It is clear though that she does not understand how her actions make our jobs more difficult.  She failed the officers who risk their lives to protect her and her family every day, and she failed her community.  I know she might feel like she is part of the solution, she is, in fact, part of the problem.

My thoughts go out to Officer John DiNapoli’s family.  While unrecognized by Councilwoman Lisi, his sacrifice has not been forgotten.  And finally, to the men and women in law enforcement all over the country, I stand with you and support you.

  • railrob

    I went to clear and remove John’s service weapon before the trauma team took over his care. My heart sank when I found he was unarmed. The community did not riot or protest against the Hispanic residents and no one ventured into the “flats” to cap a few in retribution. I just find it so hard to accept both city councilors would join any protest that espoused “f__k the Police” even if they did not mouth those words. There was a video of some of the protestors being asked where they lived. NYC was the answer from a few. What connection does a NYC resident have to Holyoke? Where were they when our unarmed officer doing his job was murdered?? I just wish I was still living in Holyoke so I could vote against those councilors reelection!
    Very nice essay Scott and thanks for writing it!

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