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With respect to Trooper Paul White’s quoted statement in last week’s Valley Reporter that “you can’t ask them (constables) to be on duty and not be armed” I respectfully disagree. I have not seen evidence that being armed has been an effective feature for law enforcement here in the Mad River Valley. I would be happy to ask constables to serve well-trained for their duties and unarmed.
I tried to buy my stepmother a self-defense gun from former Deputy Sheriff John Southwick. “Is she ready to kill someone?” he asked. ‘Nuff said, when said straight. Are our constables ready kill someone? How often has the need to shoot at someone really arisen here in The Valley? Are we as citizens willing to ask our constables to live with shooting at people? Who is going to pay the price? It is far more than insurance premiums. Insurance does not cover living with having killed someone--a perp or an innocent.
Police in the United Kingdom have been unarmed since the 19th century.
In Canada, auxiliary constables are highly effective in many jurisdictions and are well-equipped, well-trained and unarmed.
It seems to me we can have more fruitful discussions of where law enforcement will be most effective if we stop thinking of police as guys with guns. Police are most effective when they are guys and gals with brains, using educational, legal, persuasive and other resources to educate, to prevent crime, to control crime in progress and to investigate crime for prosecution. If our constables are unarmed, we get better law enforcement, and we attract the right people to the job.
In contrast to firearms, radar guns have done much to slow down traffic to safe levels for other drivers, for bicyclists and for pedestrians.
In contrast to firearms, Tasers (which do have some safety issues) are far safer for both the suspect and the officer.
In contrast to firearms, education and zero-tolerance of driving with alcohol consumed, combined with designated driver programs, have saved thousands of lives.
In contrast to firearms, neighborhood watch programs, alarm systems, and video monitoring equipment have deterred burglaries and theft and provided information for arrests.
Let’s put our money, our training hours, and our discussions where they are effective. Instead of $2,500 additional to insure armed constables, spend that money on safe driver education at Harwood, neighborhood watch signs and other proven programs including ones that train constables.
In 1947, Western movie star John Wayne produced his first film, Angel and the Badman. In the final scene, our heroic gunslinger drops his gun in the dirt and lets the sheriff handle the really bad guy. The Duke had it right. Guns have their place. But sometimes you need to let go and get on with a better way. This is Vermont 2011, not Dodge City 1870.
Rick Rayfield lives in Fayston.