Petty Politics Reign

Security at Public Meetings
By Pat Hunter

In some communities, police officers are routinely assigned to attend public meetings to provide security and in many instances, top law enforcement officers are required to attend public meeting and report to the governing body, but not here. Mayor Doyle Arp and commissioners have all but said that the Sheriff and/or his deputies are no longer needed at commission meetings, click Arp’s Newest Decree.  Will officials admit that they goofed and eat crow while it’s still warm?

Safety and security should be a concern to all officials and public, in view of the St. Louis incident. A gunman fatally shot five people, including three city officials attending a public meeting. The shooting has many asking about security at public meetings.

As promised, Mayor Doyle Arp stopped the tradition of Sheriff Tim Guider, “Oh yesing.” Commissioners followed Arp’s lead but was that a wise decision?

Sheriff Tim Guider attended the Feb. 4th commission meeting but who knows if he will even bother to attend or send a deputy to future meetings. Public meetings can be safe and secure without being an armed camp. The Sheriff’s presence meant order at some very contentious public meetings. Years ago, during a county commission meeting there was a disagreement between commissioners. As the debate escalated among commissioners, a hot tempered male commissioner lunged and was about to strike a female commissioner. Sheriff Guider quickly intervened and escorted the angry commissioner into a side-room at the old Courthouse bringing order to the meeting. Had it not been for the Sheriff’s swift intervention, who knows what could have happened? The commissioner was not arrested for disorderly conduct for starting the skirmish.

Before the start of a commission meeting months ago, purportedly a private citizen was pushed by an angry official; a retired officer intervened, avoiding an altercation.

The Mayor and county commissioners eliminated the need for the Sheriff’s presence, which also served as safety and security at commission meetings; that doesn’t sound like a prudent decision. Petty politics shouldn’t dictate conventional wisdom!