4-2-2007 Scanner Land run amok

Jesus H. Cripes! I turned on the Sue Henry Show this morning only to hear a three-hour long pitch for Bob Kadluboski being named NEPAís Man of the Year as a result of this reckless tomfoolery: Towing operator credited in arrest of Joseph Solomon

A quick recap.

There was a humungous manhunt going on involving numerous police departments and dozens of police officers, and a citizen upped and decided to play bounty hunter right in the middle of it. Yep, he grabbed his gun and did his duty. The only problem is he has no powers of arrest, and he has no right to decide where and when he feels like pulling his legally concealed firearm. The way I remember the tale, concealed firearms issued to private citizens are for defensive purposes, not ill-advised offensive operations.

Average folks like you and I can detain people if we witness a crime being committed. Punk rips purse from elderly woman, we run over and crush the punkís Adamís apple, kick his ribs a dozen or so times and then call 911. I detained a kid in a used record store on Iron Street down Bloomsburg way about a decade ago. I walked in, checked the Zappa section and out of nowhere the shop ownerís wife confronted a kid who was shoplifting compact discs. He bitch-slapped her to the floor. Turns out, the only thing between him and the front door was me. So, he got bitch-slapped to the floor, kneeled on, cursed at and threatened with worse until the cops arrived on scene. The cops had some really nice things to say to me. And during my next visit, the appreciative shop owner treated me to some free discs for helping out. Sweet.

But, If I had pulled out my concealed firearm, jammed it into his mouth and screamed at him to suck on it, Iím betting the cops wouldnít have had many really nice things to say to me. And Iím also guessing that the shop owner would be wondering if he really wanted me in his store again after such a crazed display.

But we donít monitor ongoing police dragnets and then inject ourselves into the middle of a volatile and dangerous situation. And, no, Sue Henryís radio interloper, Steve Corbett, was incorrect, as was Sue. Police officers do not and will not encourage the participation of average folks when gunplay may be imminent. And to suggest that they do is appalling stupidity the likes of which can quickly lead to a needless tragedy. Sorry, Steve, but we ought not feel free to up and join a manhunt for a heavily-armed assailant who previously demonstrated a clear disregard for the lives of others.

You are wrong, Steve.

But what if we do? What if we do decide to pull a gun and play bounty hunter whenever the mood strikes us? If something goes horribly wrong during the course of our ill-advised ďcitizenís arrest,Ē what then? Are we liable for the resulting death and destruction? Are we on the hook for a civil suit, and, or subject to arrest? If weíre liable for car accidents while directing traffic at the scene of a motor vehicle accident, which we are, what happens when an accidental death is the direct result of our decision to apprehend a heavily-armed, doped-up criminal on the run from the police? Trust me, you donít want to know if that scenario plays itself out as a result of your actions.

I snagged the following from the Wilkes-Barre Crime Watch Coalition Web Site:

Many people don't want to bother the police because they are afraid that it may not be a real emergency or that they may be embarrassed if their suspicions turn out to be unfounded.

The police would much rather be called out to investigate than to be called after a crime has been committed. When in doubt, always call 911. The 911-dispatch center is staffed with trained operators who will evaluate your call, rank its priority, and dispatch it to the appropriate officer.

Neighborhood Watch does NOT mean being a vigilante. Participants do not confront suspects or take any personal risks at all.

Imagine that. The people that assist, and in many cases, work very closely with our police department are trained not to confront suspects, or take any personal risks at all. And who is telling them that? Um, the police officers themselves? DING! You win a prize.

And the risks are many. Not only can you be injured, maimed or killed, you can, by your own actions, inflict much the same things on innocent bystanders and onlookers. Picture a wrestling match, the gun goes off and the startled girl with the freckles and the pigtails suddenly falls to the pavement clutching her bloodied midsection. Do you want that on your conscience? Do you want your name on the court docket? Do you think Sue and Steve will be singing your praises then?

And what of these average folks carrying concealed firearms? What training have they had, or lack thereof? Where is it written that I should trust your judgment just because some political hack in an office somewhere issued you a permit to carry a loaded firearm? Do you have a short fuse? Do you exhibit bipolar tendencies? Do you covet attention above all else? Have you ever been privy to round after round of shock treatments? Are you even trustworthy?

Consider the cops and their guns. They fritter away the hours at shooting ranges, while praying to god that they will never have to pull their weapons from their holsters. Even more so, they pray that they will never have to discharge their weapons. And most retire without ever having pulled the trigger. But the first rule of firing their weapons is that they must wait just long enough so as to not make an egregious mistake, and by doing so, they put their own lives in great peril. The point being, they are trained. They understand that the use of firearms should be the last resort. The firearm is used only when their lives, or the lives of innocent civilians are being threatened.

So, why would we be so completely willing to congratulate somebody with a loaded firearm, somebody with no police training and somebody who has repeatedly displayed an overzealous approach to assisting police officers? Put very bluntly, pulling a firearm and pointing it at somebody is pretty serious business. And itís a business we employ properly trained and properly equipped police officers to conduct, not reckless yahoos.

Iím of the opinion that what Bob Kadluboski did with his little pop gun is a glaring, almost perfect example of what not to do when the local police are making with the dragnet routine. And I seriously doubt that any local police officer would take issue with that.

Tackling a purse snatcher is one thing. Assisting a cop when heís outnumbered and in definite trouble is another thing. But grabbing a police scanner, the bristling ammo belt and remaking yourself into a self-styled Rambo clone is a whole other possibly disastrous thing. And no cop wants reckless yahoos playing Rambo in the middle of the night, while his ass may be on the line.

And this isnít like target shooting. When the police get to reaching for their guns out of necessity, they are not in well-lit firing ranges and taking deep, steadying breaths between each and every squeeze of the trigger. This is life and death stuff for them.

This is the late night call, this is the armed robbery at Turkey Hill. He leans on the pedal, the lights are flashing, the siren is wailing away and he gets there as fast as he can. A boring job this isnít. And while his adrenaline spikes and his blood pressure soars, heís excited, but scared. Heíll probably never admit to the latter, but cops understand that criminals do carry guns, and some of those criminals will shoot at victims and cops alike.

He arrives on scene and surveys the scene for imminent threats to his safety. The girl behind the counter is sobbing, a customer is shrieking and somebody points to the back door as the getaway route. A getaway route that leads directly to a dark, dark alley. The cop, firearm now in hand, sprints through the door and into the alley in pursuit of the robber. His breathing races as if he had jogged to the scene. At any second, he might have to end someoneís life, or have his life snatched from him.

The Monday morning quarterbacks and unknowing residents rarely take this into account when they get to hand-ringing about a deadly shooting at the hands of a cop. All too often, the results of deadly shootings are examined as if they happened in slow motion, while the truth of the matter is they are typically the result of instinctive reflexes made in a nanosecond and in the dark.

And in that alley, where visibility is reduced to an absolute minimum, something moves on the copís periphery. Heís not sure what it is, but itís coming in his direction and fast. In the darkness, his depth perception is challenged, as is his ability to differentiate tricks of light from the suspect that may, or may not be lurching at him.

What does he do? Does he wait long enough to be sure of what he might need to shoot at, or does he wait just long enough to get shot? Should he put three quick rounds through whatever it is that seems to be moving at him, or should he wait just long enough to turn his pretty young wife into a widow? Should he risk being suspended, sued and, or brought up on charges himself? Or should he spend the rest of his life wondering if he did the right thing given the murky circumstances?

This is what cops are faced with on all too many occasions. This isnít like playing Cops Ďní Robbers on the X-box. This isnít akin to the comfort and ease the shooting range provides you with. This isnít something you practice, although, I think many cops may play this one out in their minds, just in case they one day find themselves in that darkened alley behind the Turkey Hill.

Luckily, at least in this area, most of our police officers retire without ever having to fire their weapons. And most are smart enough, trained enough and compassionate enough to know that brandishing a loaded firearm is a serious, and ultimately deadly undertaking. They donít take the weighty responsibility that is carrying a loaded firearm lightly. So, why are we so quick to immortalize a citizen that thinks so little of not only interfering in police business, but who also thinks so little of pointing his firearm at his fellow citizens?

All I know is, if weíre allowed to impersonate cops whenever we feel like it, and if weíre waving loaded firearms when we get to doing it, something really bad is going to happen.

Hero one day, incarcerated goat the next.

Sez me.