2-6-2005 Double digits

I'm not real certain, but I think it's possible that someone might have poisoned me late Thursday.

I cleaned up some paperwork at work and found myself in a meeting until nearabout 5 PM. By 6 PM, I was back here at the adobe and had someone at city hall on the phone. I wanted to know what time the big press conference was scheduled for. Yeah, the one where we'd get to meet our newest cops. Turns out, it was scheduled for 10 the next morning.

Anywho, a guy who's job title rhymes with mayor asked me how many cops I was hoping to see hired. I muttered something about double digits. "Double digits?" came a quick reply. "How many?" I told the guy on the other end of the phone that I'd be happy if we hired at least ten new cops. And guess what? Despite having to keep that number under my hat, that's exactly how many new cops the city hired. So the press conference was but hours away, and being somewhat temporarily unemployed, I had nothing better to do.

A mere three hours later, I was freakin' dying. I'll spare you the specifics, but what I had become almost instantaneously barely passed for a functional human being. And it would be 48 hours before I could eat again, drink again, smoke again or even lift my head off of the back of the recliner. Basically, with almost no advanced warning, I was a complete wreck for two straight days. I didn't have whatever ailed me diagnosed by a medical doctor, but at the very least, I think I should seek out some homeless drunk to test my food long before I ever grab a fork. You can't be too careful with all of these whackers running around seeking elected office.

So our police force got a much-needed , shot in the arm with these hirings. Actually, the entire city just got a much-needed shot in the arm. One that the residents have been clamoring for years now. Facts is facts, and when it comes to sheer numbers, our police department has been short-handed for at least five years if not more. But I was surprised to hear some of our council folks suggesting that with all things being what they currently are, the hiring of ten new cops may have been a few too many.

I grabbed this exerpt from a piece in the Leader penned by Lane Filler:

Some council members, even while supporting more police, question why the mayor would hire so many. The money for the new hires comes from the recently passed Emergency and Municipal Services tax, and several on council have asked why more of the money won’t be used to fix dilapidated or closed fire stations.

“I’ve supported the hiring of more police officers for five years,” said Councilwoman Kathy Kane, “but I think we could have gotten by with six and taken care of the firehouses. I’m very excited, but I didn’t expect 10.”

Kane, a Heights resident, has been a staunch advocate of re-establishing fire service in that neighborhood since the closure of the station on Northampton Street several months ago.

Of the approximately $850,000 expected to be raised by the new tax in 2005, $200,000 is earmarked for repairs to firehouses on Ross Street, Scott Street and at Parrish and High Streets. But no money is budgeted to repair the closed stations in the Heights and on Conyngham Avenue.

“It’s kind of more than I expected,” said council member and former police Chief Bill Barrett. “Certainly, it’s a wonderful thing but I have a lot of serious concerns about the bigger picture. We need to come up with a plan and know where we’re going with the fire stations.”

Ah...the closed firehouses. There's an issue that'll continue to resonate out there until the new firehouses are built and the older ones are retro-fitted with whatever the heck it is that they need.

We don't need to start another spat here regarding the value of a well-staffed and paid fire department. I think we've sent that issue up the flag pole quite a few times previously. But whether anyone wants to hear it or not, ever since Tom Leighton first caught the mayoral bug, he has been deluged since with requests from his constituents to hire more cops and bring this crime thing under control already. The great preponderance of us Wilkes-Bar numbskulls want more cops. Not more firemen, more cops. That's what the folks have been telling him for months on end. Which is not to say that we don't need more of anything at this point in time. All I'm saying is, the majority of the average Joes in this town want a return to the law and order days. And their new mayor heard them.

Could we have hired five less cops and fixed something like an aging and failing firehouse? I guess we could have, but hiring only five new cops would amount to paying lip service to the issue of whether or not we really want safe streets.

Try it this way. The cops have to staff three shifts a day, seven days a week. So, to increase the number of cops on patrol by one per shift, we'd need to hire at least three new cops. If we want two extra patrol units on each shift, we'd need to hire five new cops. Three extra cops on patrol per shift? Follow? Sorry, but by hiring only five new guys, we really wouldn't be adding much to our presence out there on the streets. It takes numbers to reclaim those streets.

Did we hire too many? I seriously doubt it. One of the biggest factors in making our downtown hum again will prove to be whether we can change the perception of our city as being a dangerous place. And in my opinion, that is a perception that we will ultimately fail to change without a serious influx of the boys in blue.

Now let's take a gander at some drivel that also appeared in the Leader. I split Casey Jones' column into 2 distinct parts.

Posted on Sun, Feb. 06, 2005

It’s Super Cop, fighting blazes and bad guys


A family member held the Bible.

The mayor read the oath.

The new recruit said “I do.”

And they pinned a Wilkes-Barre Police Department badge on his chest.

Then they moved on. Next!

And when they were finally finished with the swearing-in ceremony Friday, Wilkes-Barre’s thin blue line was considerably thicker.

Wow. Ten new cops, and not a one on workers’ compensation.

That amounts to a 25 percent increase in police on the street. It should make an impact on the county’s unemployment statistics, and an even bigger impact in the city’s neighborhoods.

Bad guys beware! The handwriting is on the wall, and I don’t mean graffiti. Move across the river, or else!

Arrests were up last year in Wilkes-Barre. Crime was down. And now more cops. Before you know it, we’ll be leaving our doors unlocked at night.

“The fact is, the more police you have, the less crime you have.” That from Gerry Dessoye, Wilkes-Barre chief of police.

He’s right, you know. It doesn’t take a chief of police to figure it out. Once these boys get back from the police academy, our streets will be safer.

Of course, that’s not going to do you any good if your house catches on fire.

The city fire department has a half-dozen fewer firefighters and two fewer fire stations than it had five years ago. And increased staffing levels have been on the firefighter union’s plate for a long time. Call them the thin red line.

So many problems, and so little money. What’s a mayor to do? Maybe hire a few of each?

As I stood there looking at that line of new recruits – short-haired, straight-spined, fit and trim 20- and 30-somethings – it occurred to me that these men could be both.

They could be Super Cops, able to run faster than speeding bullets after bad guys, but also leap into burning buildings in a single bound.

Wow. Ten new cops, and not a one on workers’ compensation.

Dude, you obviously know nothing about how to get out of a ticket, if it's still at all possible. It's been pointed out many times on the pages of SAYSO that the roley poley donut-eating cops of yesteryear have been replaced over time by leaner, meaner looking guys sporting 10th Mountain Division haircuts. And from where I'm sitting, I like my cops looking like a paramilitary splinter group.

Now, assuming that these quasi-Rambo's in blue can handle themselves physically, how might it be that they came to be injured on the job? Could it be a dangerous job, perhaps? BINGO!!! With policing being such a dangerous and physically demanding job, wouldn't it stand to reason that a certain percentage of our cops could be collecting compensation at any given time? Casey? Got a snide comment for me on that one?

Stick to the donut jokes, boy. Hacking the nuts of those injured while out and about protecting all of our sorry asses serves no one's best interests. But it'll sure get those SAYSO cowards going again. And your face pinned to a car hood if you give somebody half a good reason.

2-for-1 deal would save tax dollars

Here’s how I envision it.

Super Cops would spend most of their time chasing criminals, like a regular cop. But when the smoke billows and the whistles blow, they would duck into a phone booth and emerge in their firefighter gear.

Then they would run into the burning building, rescue all the people, return for the pets, extinguish the fire, arrest the arsonist (when applicable), change uniforms, and go chase bad guys again.

I realize my plan isn’t perfect. It would take a lot of training to put a Super Cop on the street. And they would be high maintenance, requiring recertification and ongoing training in two disciplines.

Plus, we’d have to work it out with the unions, and we’d probably have to pay the Super Cops more than the regular cops. But at least we’d only have to insure them once.

And there would be logistical problems. Cops spend a lot of time in court, and the judge probably wouldn’t let them leave unless it was the judge’s house that was on fire.

And I realize that Super Cops couldn’t just chain a suspect to a tree and rush off to a fire, at least not in the winter.

But a lot of the time, they would be available. And if they’re writing a ticket, it only takes a second to say: “It’s your lucky day, sir. Drive safely now.”

We need to give the Super Cop concept a try. There’s something in it for everybody.

The police and fire departments get the manpower they need.

The taxpayers get more fire power for their tax dollars.

And the mayor won’t look like he’s playing favorites.

I know. I know. This particular Jones column sucked, but you only have to suffer through one more re-printed snippet. You're almost there. Bare with me, kiddies.

We need to give the Super Cop concept a try. There’s something in it for everybody.

The police and fire departments get the manpower they need.

The taxpayers get more fire power for their tax dollars.

And the mayor won’t look like he’s playing favorites.

BANG!!! ZINGER!!! Keep those SAYSO nutballs stirred up into a foam-mouthed frenzy. Only the Times Leader would dare to suggest that the hiring of ten new police officers could be something that the hoi polloi should be upset with.

What? No firemen? Why, that goll-derned One-Term-Tommy!!! You know what he did, Bess? He hired ten new cops? I'll never vote for him again.

Oh, and the Leader did have to go to great lengths to point out that all ten new hires were all, that's ALL white boys. Oh my God! Say it ain't so, Reb! Say it ain't so!

Wanna know what? I could care less if they hired ten Iraqi's provided that all ten of them were 100% devoted to gettin' after the creeps that need some serious gettin' after.

Maybe the Leader should have stuck with your basic donut jokes.

From the e-mail inbox MArk


Says me. What say you?

Argh. Yikes. I dunno about that one, dude. I have one painfully simple rule whereas Super Bowls minus the New York Giants are concerned: Basically, I have no horse in this race, therefore, I don't give a flying muck.

Lemme do this. The Jints have appeared in the big game three times. Twice, I was supremely confident that we were going to win, and we won both times. But that third time...that third time, I was scared to death and chewed off a few finger nails while waiting for the coin toss and the controlled violence that would follow. I was scared to death...and we got freaking skunked. Spanked. Beat on.

And if I was an Eagles fan on this fine Sunday...I'd be scared to death.

Sez me.

Should be fun to watch.

So, anyway, the sudden illness that overtook me in little more than a nanosecond didn't kill me. I thought I'd turn this 'puter thingie on and ruin somebody's day by pointing that out. Maybe next time. Cheer up, Walt.

And I think ten new cops was the minimum number of bodies we should have been looking to hire.

Double digits. Just like I had hoped for.

Try not to break anything or beat any of the women tonight. There's always next year.