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Pyle: More Jedi, fewer stormtroopers

Published January 11, 2013 6:12 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A sheriff I used to know preferred talking to shooting.

And it was a good thing, too, because one of the few times he was face-to-face with an armed fugitive, he held out his left hand in a "halt" gesture and reached his right hand around to grab the pistol he carried in a holster attached to his belt, way at the back, under his sport jacket.

Except the sheriff's weapon wasn't there. It was at home on his dresser.

The way the sheriff told this story over the years — and he told it so well that he had many requests to repeat it — was that he kept his right hand behind his back, as if the pistol really were there, kept his gaze fixed on the panicky young man and softly but firmly instructed his quarry to just relax and nobody would get hurt.

Nobody did.

Back-up arrived shortly and took the fugitive into custody without further ado. And we were reminded, as Master Obi-Wan teaches, that the Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.

Looking over The Salt Lake Tribune for the past few days, examples that follow the mold of my friend's clear-eyed thinking are few, and instances where other cops might have been better off if they weren't carrying guns, either, are more common.

The best news was the new policy announced last week by Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank. His officers will skip over the theory that considers prostitution, for example, what's been called a "victimless crime," and be willing to consider that it is an activity that involves nothing but victims.

This is particularly true when young women, often minors, often brought here from other countries, have been forced into selling themselves, when it is not the willing seller/willing buyer/consenting adult activity that, really, cops ought not concern themselves with.

Meanwhile, in Ogden, they marked the first anniversary of the death of one of their police officers by naming their public safety building for him. Proper. But not a word about whether anyone has learned anything from the harebrained raid on an alleged pot-grower's house, which caused the death of that officer and endangered many others.

This is the same town where police staged another aim-first-and-ask-questions-later raid on the home of a totally innocent family because some AWOL soldier apparently had a relative who once lived at that address.

If the man of that house had come to the door with a gun instead of a baseball bat, doing what he could to protect his family from what he had every reason to think was a criminal home invasion, Ogden likely would have to find something else to name after a fallen officer.

And, in the same week, we read that a widower is suing Vernal city officials because, he claims, two of that berg's police officers walked into his home uninvited and confiscated the remainder of his late wife's prescription medication. While his wife's body was still in their bedroom, being tended to by the mortician.

And, of course, the Hurricane Police Department has paid $2 million to the family of a mentally ill man who died after being shocked by a Taser. No word as to whether the settlement requires any improved training for officers to deal with the mentally ill.

We want our police officers to be tough. But running around with drawn weapons, or Tasers, often is the opposite of tough. It's dumb. It undermines people's confidence in their own laws. It's expensive. And it's deadly.

In Utah law enforcement, we need more Jedi, and fewer stormtroopers.

George Pyle, a Tribune editorial writer, has absolutely no idea how that little plastic bag containing an unknown substance got into his brief case. Really. gpyle@sltrib.com




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