How we manage the law in Friendship
AN appealing letter has just come to my appealing wife, asking her to donate liberally to a fund that will erect a memorial in the District of Columbia to Law Enforcement Officers. This is probably all right, but the appeal relates itself to our Friendship Police Department, and Friendship doesn't have any police department. United States Senator Al D'Amato, who says he is honorary chairman of the fund raising committee, urges my wife to contribute while there is yet time, and he says he is sure she shares with him a sense of outrage when it comes to crime. He says he has worked hard in the Senate to make sure criminals get caught and punished. My wife says she is all for that, and she hopes he catches every criminal in the Senate and they all get punished. She asked me if I think she should write to Senator D'Amato and tell him about the great sadness that befell our clam warden.
It's true that Friendship has no police department. Why would we want one of those? We do have a harbor master, who amounts to constabulary for the waterfront, but some days he has little to do and goes over to play cribbage with the Maytag repairman. Our harbor master gets paid $500 a year, but that's not an expense to the taxpayer. He gets paid from the boat excise tax fund, which means in a way that the fishermen who use the harbor pay for their own policing. Everybody seems happy about that arrangement. If you ever come into Friendship Harbor in the summertime with your beautiful mahogany yacht, you'll do well to hunt up Blake Wotton, our harbor master, and get acquainted. He'll tell you where to put your killick and show you the town landing. Somehow, we don't think of Blake as a cop. Fact is, we don't even have a constable.
The constable is the basic enforcement officer under our town meeting system, and he not only can make arrests but he can serve papers. Most important paper he serves is the notice for the annual town meeting. The selectmen prepare the agenda and then give the ``warrant'' to a constable, who posts it in public and conspicuous places and then makes his ``return'' to the town clerk to say he has done so. When that warrant is posted and the return made, that's it - our judges have decreed that a meeting not held at the time and place thus called for is not a legal meeting. This makes the constable fairly important, but even so we have found here in Friendship that we can get along without him. Lately, the selectmen have been addressing the annual warrant to Roger Bramhall, who is designated merely as ``a citizen,'' and our meetings are as good as any.
This is not to say Friendship is without crime. True, we have a high percentage of pious, respectable, and upright people (we have only 800 altogether of all kinds) and the tendency to lawlessness is kept at a ridiculous low. Once in a while somebody may keep a short lobster, and one time we had a juvenile who stole hubcaps.
When we really need an enforcement officer, we are not bereft. Within call and handy by we have forestry, game, and shore wardens. Whenever I've had occasion to need one of these, my call has been answered quickly and I had good attention. The forest warden, or ranger, looks for fires and gives good advice about woodlot management. The game wardens look for poachers, and three years ago they caught one. The shore wardens deal in marine infractions, inspect sardines, and go down twice a day to call the tide in. We also have the service of the state police, but I don't know much about them. One night when my wife and I were shunted off the road by a reckless driver, I rang the district barracks to give the state police a number and the location. I found they had closed for the weekend and their calls were being answered at the state capital by a woman who said she was sorry but was just going off duty. I didn't pursue things. If I ever really need a policeman, I'll call the county sheriff. He's on duty all the time, and needs my vote.
Anyway, we manage here in Friendship without a town police department. And now that he's about to honor law enforcement officers, I believe Senator D'Amato should know about the great sadness that befell our clam warden. Clam diggers need a town license, and must not dig in ``closed'' flats. For conservation purposes, certain areas are proscribed. Neither can a clam digger take clams less than two inches long. So our town does have a clam warden who is vigilant and keen of eye. When he was sworn in, he went on a prowl and almost immediately encountered a clam digger who was breaking the regulations. He then arrested his own brother. I think such honest conduct should be memorialized, and if he'll include clam wardens, I'll send D'Amato $10.