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.