Only a few hundred miles outside of Milwaukee, in a town of 2,000, a twenty year old "off-duty" deputy sheriff, and part-time police officer, apparently went bezerk, and went on a shooting spree, at an undisclosed private house, taking the lives of at least six people. The suspect, whose name is being withheld, was himself fatally shot by "authorities," some of whom may have worked at the same sheriff's office. Many of the specific details of this crime are being withheld, and t here is only speculation about the motive. (AP) A mother of one of the victims suggests jealousy might be behind the killler's rampage.
Okay, it's not like this is the first time a police officer has been involved in a violent crime, and okay, maybe we can rationalize this outrageous, and horrifying event by noting what a rare occurrence it is to see members of law enforcement committing homicides. Oh, and yes, maybe it's completely inappropriate to talk about ready access to firearms of all kinds, especially when we're talking about police. But, what does the police manual, in Crandon, Wisconsin, say about carrying a weapon when off duty? Yes, of course, this appears to have been a crime of passion, so one wouldn't expect the deputy sheriff to consult his manual beforehand.
That said, there appears to be far greater leniency with respect to the carrying, and use, of weapons by members of law enforcement in this country than is desirable.
Interestingly, as you know, police officers in Great Britain don't carry guns, and that country has a much lower incidence of violent crime.
There are many who will use the "rotten apple" argument iin defense of America's law enforcement, and say that police departments needn't bother taking a closer look at the way they train their recruits with respect to when, where, how, and why they discharge their weapons, tear gas, and tasers. Maybe they're right. The commission of a crime like this by a police officer is clearly an anomaly, but we, as a society, can no more afford complacency, and apathy, when it comes to the actions of those we entrust with enforcing our laws than with those we elect to higher office.
And, factoring the National Rifle Association, and the abuse of legal, and illegal, weapons in this country, out of the equation, there have been way too many images, on the news, lately of policemen holding down an agitated, and anguished 45 year old woman at a Phoenix airport,.as well as rounding up members of Code Pink at a recent Lieberman/ McCain rally, and tasering an overzealous undergraduate at a Florida university for refusing to succumb to campus police after making controversial comments about impeaching the president. Oh, this is only what has been captured on camera. You wouldn't have to be there to guess how law enforcement handled the so-called Jenna 6, in Louisiana, when making their arrests judging by some of the amateur video that has made its way to primetime news of big city police beating up Rodney King, and others like him in inner cities around America.
But, what does this have to do with a clearly deranged young man who, possibly after what may have been little more than a lover's quarrel, does in his girlfriend, and her whole family? Simply this, when we are bombarded with news accounts of soldiers gunning down innocent Iraqi citizens, of Los Angelenos being tear gassed for speaking out against draconian measures targeting illegal immigrants, of riot police routinely making their presence felt at anti-war protest rallies, of youngsters being tasered, whether they be students at a college in South Florida, or young men of color in our nation's inner cities, how can any reasonable person possibly expect anyone who has access to a gun not to model the kind of obscene, irrational behavior that destroyed the lives of six, and will force the state attorney general of Wisconsin to consider what the evaluation process is, and how it is this 20 year old got to be a member of a sheriff's department in the first place. Hopefully, too, the attorney general will place more restrictions on the use of deadly force by the police on the police, or on any human being. Deadly force is no substitute for due process.
While one often thinks of Charleton Heston when thinking about the NRA, in this age of the cowboy, any gun-toting madman will do just as well..
Hopefully, the terrible event that took place in Wisconsin today will compel us all to examine empowerment by weapon, as well as an issue increasingly swept under the table, that of police brutality, and abuse of power. We know we've arrived when the "authorities" who shot the off-duty deputy sheriff to death themselves face review. We have become far too accepting of fatal shootings by on-duty police officers just as we're far too tolerant of those who think it's their constitutional right to bear arms, even when, increasingly, it's at the expense of innocent life.
The officer who fired his gun, and took the lives of six isn't the only poster child for the NRA; each of his victims is, too.