by Doug MacEachern, columnist - Jul. 24, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/opinions/articles/2011/07/23/20110723maceachern0724-sane-perspective.html#ixzz1Szsp3AJSWhen Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik shared with the world the results of his personal investigation into the Jan. 8 Tucson-area shooting - people with political views different from his had caused the murders to happen, he concluded - someone special was listening.
The sheriff, who decried his state as a "mecca for racism and bigotry," became quite the celebrity then. He knew, intrinsically, that the talk shows - in a nutshell, Fox News - were "inflaming the American people," by which he meant conservative, "tea partyish," American people, by whom he meant people whose smoldering hostilities rendered them capable of murder once the right buttons were pushed.
Tucson shooter, tea-party activist. They all stew in the same pot of hate, in Dupnik's view.
"That may be free speech, but it's not without consequences," Dupnik said on the day of the shooting.
The sheriff's message went out over the airwaves, just like all those so-called hate messages. And someone special was listening.
Four days later, Quartzsite Police Chief Jeff Gilbert stood before his Town Council and delivered his own sober message about "hate." There was too much controversy out there in Quartzsite. Too much "propaganda." And too many people with a real dislike for local government officials.
"The (Tucson-area) shooting clearly appears to be motivated by a disturbed individual who is reported to have distorted political views, was anti-government, did not like or trust government officials, and believed they were just trying to cover up some conspiracy," said the chief.
"Does any of this sound familiar to our community?"
To those of us on the outside of Quartzsite, the little town certainly does seem seriously whacked-out. The best that outsiders can tell, a lot of it is loon vs. loon. It's hard to discern the precise politics of that isolated town near the Colorado River. But it is clear the police chief believes his opponents are anti-government types. And Chief Gilbert clearly sees it as his duty to protect the government from them. Any way he can.
"These words are warning signs," said the chief as he read from an e-mail he received from one of his long-standing opponents.
"The words of hatred hiding behind the Constitution, these are warning signs. The propaganda that's being spread about the local government, these are warning signs. The behavior and outbursts, the actions that have taken place in some of these council meetings, they are warning signs."
As The Republic's Dennis Wagner reported last Sunday, Chief Gilbert indeed has taken all those "warning signs" seriously. Numerous Quartzsite residents contend Gilbert has ordered his tiny force to harass them. He is issuing them tickets, indiscriminately, they claim. And he is charging them with faux crimes. Many Quartzsite-ites, including the mayor, say they have been "arrested" on Gilbert's orders multiple times.
A majority of Gilbert's own police force says it has had enough of the harassment. In June, 10 of Gilbert's 14 sworn officers signed a letter declaring they had "no confidence" in their chief. They complained about the citizen harassment and about the chief using the law to protect his friends.
The officers asked for public-safety officials outside Quartzsite to investigate. The Arizona Department of Public Safety says it is complying.
That was in June. Now, allies of Chief Gilbert are retaliating against the cops. The town has placed eight of the officers who signed the letter, as well as a staff technician, on administrative leave pending an investigation into their attempt to defame "the integrity and reputation of the town of Quartzsite, its chief of police, its town manager, and its common council."
The officers have been ordered to stay in their homes during the day. A de facto "house arrest," according to the town's mayor, Ed Foster.
"The chief of police is acting irrational," said the mayor. "What rational person, with all the national media attention focused on Quartzsite now, would act like this?"
I'm no shrink. Nor do I play one in news columns. But I have no doubt that Chief Gilbert, like Sheriff Dupnik before him, firmly believes he is the only rational person in the room. And he believes it is his job to come down on those people whom he deems the crazies. Which is to say, those people whose views he dislikes.
During that same Jan. 11 town meeting, Gilbert spoke directly to Mayor Foster, whom he views as one of those crazy people:
"Mr. Mayor, as the person running our Town Council meetings, I am passing this warning on to you," he said.
"You are the person charged with the responsibility for controlling the meetings to assure the business of the town is conducted without personal attack, outbursts and disruption. And I am the one who is charged with the responsibility of the safety of the public. And I hope and pray that the town of Quartzsite never makes the news for such a tragedy. I take all of these warning signs seriously. Mr. Mayor, I hope you do the same."
That's serious talk. Grim. Sober. Scary in an "angry man with a gun" way. And a predictable consequence of listening to too much wild-eyed political speech.
From Clarence Dupnik.
Reach MacEachern at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/opinions/articles/2011/07/23/20110723maceachern0724-sane-perspective.html#ixzz1Szs4vdvN
Speaking of "sane"??? Here's Councilman Winslow's sworn testiminy to the County Justice of the Peace Court.