A sign of the polarizing times

Dear Editor:

This week, I have been a party to great deal of discussion about Sheriff Kane’s request for “riot gear” that was scheduled for the County Commissioners’ June 16 meeting. As one of the three commissioners who would be voting on the purchase, it was clear from the moment the agenda item appeared it would be a polarizing subject.

I should know; before becoming a commissioner, a supervisor, a credit analyst, a dad, or a husband, I was a photographer. Polarization — I couldn’t explain the physics of it if my life depended on it, but I can tell you it can be used to clarify or obstruct one’s view. Of course, the thing with using a polarizing filter in photography is, you are always just seeing the image through your perspective, through your mind’s eye. The person right next to you, looking at the same scene, doesn’t see it.

We all have our own filters. When I look at the request from the Sheriff, it seems clear. The Sheriff was reacting to the growing protest around the country and right here in Ellsworth, resulting in the request for “riot gear.” An overreaction? An ill-timed request? Yes, but again that is my perspective. When you are using a polarizing filter, you turn the ring around; spinning the second element making skies darken, contrast increase and reflections disappear. I try my best as a commissioner to see beyond my own filters, to keep my perspective open so I don’t get trapped in my own biases. It isn’t hard for me to turn that filter and see that the Sheriff’s Department isn’t a militarized behemoth. It’s made up of hard-working men and women keeping us safe and trying to get home safe at the end of the day.

Both visions are true.

In the end, there would be no vote, the request withdrawn. A result of community action, a lack of support, or a willingness to step back and re-evaluate? I like to see it as a reflection of the Sheriff Department’s commitment to its citizens. Polarizing times but not without moments of clarity.


John A. Wombacher

Hancock County Commissioner, District 2

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