May 8, 2009
So a few guys are riding through the military park in a police cruiser, one in the driver''s seat, one in the passenger''s seat. Another two are seated in the popped trunk.
They''re bumping loud music and blaring sirens at passersby. In their excitement, now and again they even let the blue lights whirl.
Sound like an episode of "The Real World"? Or something you might TiVo our favorite drunken celebrities doing on "The Surreal Life"?
While certainly surreal, it unfortunately wasn''t reality TV. It was reality, period.
Apparently, this is how four of Columbus'' finest decided to spend the afternoon Tuesday, while on the city''s dime for a three-day field sobriety training course in Vicksburg, sponsored by Sobriety Trained Officers Representing Mississippi.
A concerned Vicksburg citizen called The Dispatch to report the incident.
He''d been jogging in the Vicksburg National Military Park when he saw the rowdy behavior from our police officers, "who are supposed to be responsible, authoritative people," he commented.
He was right to be taken aback; we certainly are.
As city employees, police officers are representatives of the city itself.
Especially when out of town, when they, in essence, are the face of Columbus, their behavior should be well above that of a high school kid on spring break.
Aside from Vicksburg civilians and tourists, officers from all over the state were training in Vicksburg and no doubt are now aware of this shameful conduct.
Columbus Police Chief Joseph St. John had the officers return to Columbus immediately after S.T.O.R.M. notified him of the incident at the military park.
Witnesses in the park had reported loud music coming from the police car and the officers flashing its lights to keep visitors from getting too close.
The park patron who contacted The Dispatch was convinced the officers must have been drunk.
S.T.O.R.M. Chairman Michael D. Vick said alcohol was not involved in the matter. But after witnessing such outlandish behavior, we certainly can understand why he would think it was.
In what other situation, do you find ''responsible'' adults acting so fatuously?
St. John hasn''t confirmed the identities of the officers involved in the incident, but the Columbus City Council in April approved the trip for Cpl. Spence Wallingford and officers Wade Beard, Heath Beard and Robert Walker.
An apology to the park and the citizens of Vicksburg was to be issued. The citizens of Columbus, at the very least, deserve an apology, as well.
But this situation calls for a lot more than a simple "I''m sorry."
It''s an embarrassment to the police department, to the entire city of Columbus and to the law enforcement profession as a whole.
The City Council should set an example and hold these officers accountable for their irresponsible and downright ridiculous behavior with disciplinary action.
Mr. Congeniality commented at 5/8/2009 1:23:00 PM:
Friday May 22nd volunteers and VNMP staff will put flags on thousands of graves in Vicksburg National Cemetery, part of VNMP. Send your cowboys back down here to help with the graves and, perhaps, learn some history and respect.
Mr. Congeniality commented at 5/8/2009 1:25:00 PM:
I should add VNMP does this every year for Memorial Day.
mark commented at 5/9/2009 10:10:00 AM:
maybe a new show like reno 911 but called columbus 911! lol
KCB commented at 5/9/2009 3:06:00 PM:
It is absolutely unacceptable that representatives of Columbus (elected or appointed - they are representatives of at least the government if not the people) would act in this manner. Chief St. John, I expect that you wil hold these officers accountable for this shameful behavior. I have only lived here for a couple years, but so far the government of Columbus (Mayor, City Council and Police Department) has given me little reason to be proud of and is a big reason that Starkville and Tupelo increasingly overshadow Columbus in many areas.
Tommy commented at 5/10/2009 1:21:00 PM:
Fire all four of them this is not hollywood.
Joe Outsider commented at 5/17/2009 9:29:00 AM:
Based on my encounters with the CPD....it's obvious you get what you pay for. I've been treated with total disrespect without provokation by a CPD cop during a traffic stop, and best I can tell from what I've seen, some of the CPD cops completely lack communication, writing and people skills. There are a few that present themselves with professionalism and I am very thankful to them - especially the drug enforcement guys, but again, you get what you pay for - way to "represent" fab 4.
3. Voice of the people: Mike Cooper LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
4. Voice of the people: Cameron Triplett LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
5. Leonard Pitts: Police brutality is a problem for everyone NATIONAL COLUMNS