Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Justice, Texas Style

According to reporting by KLTV, the ABC affiliate in Tyler, Texas, an eight-year-old East Texas boy got a visit from a Mt. Vernon police officer during school hours. The reason: five overdue library books from the Franklin County Library. The report by Orelia Ortega said "The boy's father is furious that the school would allow something like this to happen. But the officer who went to the school says he was just doing his job." The boy said he had no clue why he got called to the principal's office in Mt. Vernon. Once inside, he saw Mt. Vernon Sgt. Blake Gurley, who was carrying a gun, handcuffs and pepper spray.
I understand and respect that police officers must be on guard for their safety at all times. They never know what danger may lurk around the next corner or in the nearest shadow. Sometimes, however, you have to use a little judgment.
I completely understand why this kid might be freaked out. If the report is accurate, this officer's attitude, demeanor and approach were inappropriate and over the top. On top of that, how can you explain that some police department thinks it's a high enough priority to chase down fifty bucks worth of overdue library books that they can yank a third grader out of class, not to mention humiliate him? The kid is so embarrassed by the whole thing that he has changed schools. Maybe that's an overreaction, but we can't get inside an eight-year-old's head.
Who exactly was the Mt. Vernon police department serving and protecting by this course of action? Can any good that might be done outweigh the obvious harm, not only to the kid and his family but to the department's image?
Sergeant Gurley told KLTV that every month, the library gives him a list of people who have not returned their books and he tries to contact them. He said the library sent out a notice regarding the overdue books to the boy's parents. "The mail was returned back to the library so they were not able to get a hold of the parent so I made a few phone calls and determined the child was the school," Sgt. Gurley told KLTV. (Of course, I'm already against the guy for using the redundant phrase "returned back," but that's another story, isn't it?)
At this point, Gurley obviously sprung into action and smoked out the nefarious ne'er-do-well.
The boy got the books (Peter's Trucks, Octopuses, Sea Anenomes, Jellyfish and another book, according to KLTV's reporting) during a school field trip.
The kid was so upset after his encounter with Serpico that he broke out in a rash and ultimately was taken to a hospital. I hope Sgt. Gurley feels like a big man today.
"I really feel that Will will carry this the rest of his life," the boy's father told the TV station.
Law enforcement at its best.

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Anonymous said...

I guess people need to be allowed to take property from taxpayers and keep it without question. I remember a day when parents tried to raise their children with a sense of personal responsibility. Obviously the father knows nothing of personal responsibility, and the young man has learned a valuable lesson from this situation. You go, Mr. Patterson!

Crazy In Shreveport said...

That is a fine example of police work. Maybe Mt. Vernon is where Jerry Jones needs to send our criminals.

By the way, just more proof I was correct in homeschooling my kid.

Darrell, it's good to see someone local blogging.

Anonymous said...

21 Oct 2006
This is in response to comments by Dick Bush.
First of all, it was not the school library that was trying to collect the books. It was the public library. Numerous attempts were made to contact the parents to no avail. The only way of getting the form letter to Will Patterson and his parents was by taking it to the school where Sgt. Gurley knew the child to be in attendance.
Second, this is not the first time that Sgt. Gurley has delivered this type of letter to a student at school. Sgt. Gurley delivered the letter to the office and asked that someone take it to Will Patterson and instruct him to take it home to his father. He did not ask for Will to be brought to the office. However, since Will was brought to the office, Sgt. Gurley explained the situation to him and simply asked him to put the letter in his backpack and take it home to his father. Sgt. Gurley assured him numerous times that he was not in any kind of trouble and Will even shook his hand before going back to class. He was not showing any signs of stress until much later.
As for his description of Sgt. Gurley's dress and demeanor, I fully believe that Will was coached by someone, probably his father. He vividly recalls that Sgt. Gurley had his handcuffs, gun and pepper spray. The first two were indeed on Sgt. Gurley's belt, but I doubt that Will would have even been able to see them. He definately would not have been able to see the pepper spray because there was no pepper spray. Sgt. Gurley does not carry pepper spray. Furthermore, most 8 year old kids have not even heard of pepper spray, much less do they know what it looks like. I do not believe that Sgt. Gurley did or said anything that would have frightened Will Patterson. It is well known that Will has severe allergies and has broken out in the same manner several times. Maybe it was fear of his father instead of fear of Sgt. Gurley that made him break out in hives. I find this much more likely since there was a considerable amount of time between the visit at school and when Will developed symptoms. He only got ill after informing his father about his meeting with Sgt. Gurley.
I do believe that this has been blown way out of proportion simply because Sgt. Gurley is currently a candidate for Justice of the Peace. I believe that Will's father is using this incident to damage Sgt. Gurley. He went straight to the editor of a newspaper in a neighboring town knowing that a one-sided, unverified account would be guaranteed to make it into the paper. The editor of this particular newspaper is well known for making biased attacks on anyone he dislikes for any reason, and he had previously written an article about Sgt. Gurley. His only reason for disliking Sgt. Gurley is that he is running on the Democratic ticket. No attempts were made to contact Sgt. Gurley, the school district or the library to get their side of the story. I doubt that the editor was genuinely concerned about the supposed unjust treatment of a child by a police officer. This story simply gave him more ammunition. If the editor is truly concerned about the welfare of children, maybe he should consider the fact that Sgt. Gurley has three children of his own. Everything that he writes about their father has a negative impact on them. He might even cause them all to break out in hives. Wouldn't that be a great story? I bet that one wouldn't make it into his newspaper.
This allegation has not only damaged the reputation of Sgt. Gurley, but has caused untold stress to his family. In addition, it has created negative attention for our outstanding school district and public library. In fact, several people have threated to not use the library anymore. I do not believe any one should fault the library or Sgt. Gurley for making every attempt to collect the overdue books. If everyone was allowed to permanently keep the books they checked out, pretty soon there wouldn't been any books left. Even though the books were not of significant value, it is still theft. Since the person who checked out the books is a minor, responsibility falls to the parents. The father admitted that he knew his son had the books and that the library had attempted numerous times to contact him. If he had simply returned the books, this whole situation could have been avoided. What kind of example is he setting for his son?
I am proud to say that I am a supporter of Sgt. Gurley and also the parent of a 3rd grade student enrolled in Mt. Vernon elementary. It outrages me that these absurd accusations have been given any merit. I encourage anyone to talk directly with Sgt. Gurley about this matter or any other concerns they may have. Everyone should make an informed decision based upon fact instead of the rantings of few politically motivated people intent on ruining an innocent man.

Comment posted by: outraged

Winter said...

Err, umm I was going to comment, but after reading "Outraged", I figured making a "funny" wasn't a good idea..

Anonymous said...

What story are you reading?

Officer Blake Gurley's behaviour? Where does the story mention the officer's attitude, demeanor, or attitude.

You said "If the report is accurate, this officer's attitude, demeanor and approach were inappropriate and over the top." I didn't read that story...

People just love to make stuff up.