Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Freedom of speech or free publicity?

I’m all for peaceful student protests and the right to say your piece, but the incident involving 21-year-old Andrew Meyer of the University of Florida was shameful for all involved. In case you missed the tidal wave of publicity that followed his persistent and somewhat angry questioning of Senator John Kerry during the Senator’s appearance on campus that led to a confrontation with police. They tried to remove him from in front of a microphone when his time limit was up and he began to put up a struggle.

Police had to use a Taser on him during his pleas of “No bro don’t tase, me.” The officers in question are now under scrutiny while Meyer after his release from jail Tuesday morning decided not to talk with the press. That’s interesting given that he has his own website, which displays material that some would call stupid, others glory-seeking, and yet others would say makes some interesting points. He’s also known as a practical joker. He’s a communications major and knows how to get attention. He’s gotten that in spades.

Somewhat removed from my college days I do remember some hot button issues of the day we protested. I usually chose the written word, the student newspaper or through peaceful means. I believe a student should be able to express his or her opinion, especially if they have no ulterior motive. I’m not so sure Meyer didn’t have one.

As for the use of tasers or stun guns, I think it’s an option for police officers I’d rather see than someone being shot. Pepper spray doesn’t always work, but when an officer threatens the use of a stun gun the person causing the problem usually shows some hesitancy.

A Fond du Lac police officer had to use a taser on a man at the Fond du Lac County jail this week. The man caused a disturbance in front of a downtown bar after being kicked out for trying to pick fights. An officer gave him every chance advising him to just walk home, but he then decided to tease a police dog in the officer’s squad car by barking loudly at it. The officer advised him to stop because that’s a crime, but the man continued calling the dog profane names. Finally the officer said he was going to arrest the man and the man took off on foot. He was caught. Several times during his arrest he was told he would be tased when he wouldn’t get into a squad car. That didn’t happen, but later at the jail as the man was struggling with six officers, a taser was used not once but twice when he wouldn’t calm down.

I’m not sure how other departments handle it, but when a Fond du Lac police officer uses a taser the incident is reviewed to see if it was a necessary use of force. In this case it seemed it was. By the way because the man was struggling with six officers the officer had to look for a large muscle group to use the taser on. The only one open that fit that description for the first stun was the buttocks.

It’s unfortunate that civil disobedience and freedom of speech has evolved on campus in this particular instance into a national forum and political issue. Freedom of speech or free publicity, which was Andrew Meyer really seeking?

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Parent's Responsibility Never Ends!

I’m now convinced that no matter how old a parent gets they will always be responsible for a child. That’s a hard lesson for both parent and child to learn and unfortunately I recently saw examples of that in the Fond du Lac County court system.

I won’t use any names, but if you follow the news you’ll at least be able to figure out one case I’m referring to. Both were in court the same day before Judge Peter Grimm for initial hearings. A 30-year-old woman was there because she failed to make an appearance and was wanted on a warrant. She’d actually reached some type of agreement to pay a fine on a bad check writing charge. She told the judge she’d moved in with a man and didn’t have any way of getting to court from the part of the state she was living in. She also had no job and if I had to guess I’d say she either is very ditsy or has some type of substance abuse problem. Her grandmother was in court to pay her fine and get her out of hot water.

The other case was more serious. Another 30-year-old woman made her appearance via video from the jail. She’s been charged with drunken driving homicide for running into another car, which resulted in injuries to three others in the other vehicle including the death of a 7-month old child. Her parents were sitting in front of me and you could tell by their reaction that they were going to have a hard time making the $15,000 cash bond the judge set for her. After the hearing they both were out in a parking lot working cell phones to try and scrape together bail money. Apparently they were successful because she was out before the weekend was over.

Listening to a little of her history you could gather that she’d been through a divorce a few years ago and was trying to do her best as a single mom for her 11-year-old son. This is the sad thing about some drunken driving accidents that result in fatal injuries. It may be someone’s first mistake and you may be a good person, but you can’t take back what happened.

I’m not really picking on women here. A few years ago I was in court for a hearing involving a 55-year-old man. His elderly father, with portable oxygen tank by his side, sat and listened waiting to do what he had to so his son could get out of jail. While covering hearings in Dodge County court a few years back I heard about the worst decision by a young man in his 20’s. He’d driven drunk and hit a van containing a family on their way to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The mother of the family was instantly killed; others were injured including a teenage girl who was left a paraplegic. His family put up their farm to make a half a million dollars cash bond. While he was out on bail he and his younger brother went to an underage drinking party violating his bail and he was caught. His parents forfeited their farm. I’m not sure if they got it back, but I know he was sent to prison.

Not all examples are restricted to courtrooms. One of my younger sisters ended up living at home the past year when she hit a rough patch. She got tired of hitting her head on the glass ceiling and decided to go out on her own, which worked for awhile. She’s bounced back since then, but again a parent chips in when they have to. Though my Mom complained about it I think she liked the company.

Sports briefs:

Being from Michigan I’m taking shots on how bad the Wolverines are playing this year. You have to take the bad with the good. I was happy to see the Green Bay Packers beat the Eagles on Sunday. It was far from a stunning success, but after five straight losses to Philadelphia it was nice to see the Packers win. And it’s nice to see the Milwaukee Brewers still in a pennant race this late in the season.