Saturday, March 3, 2007

The Mayor Plays Dirty Harry

Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber. ~Plato

[Note from October, 2013:  This sort of thing apparently runs riot in Alabama.  The Mayor of Birmingham, William Bell, pulled a similar stunt a few months ago.  At least in his case, his police bodyguards were driving.]

Jim Byard Jr. (pronounced "bird") is the mayor of Prattville, Alabama. He has been an astute politician, a reasonably competent city official, and a fairly accomplished leader. He is also a blooming idiot.

Let me explain. Last Thursday, Prattville police engaged in a high-speed chase to catch a purse snatcher. Mayor Byard was in his car with the city engineer and the city planner when he heard the chase on his car radio. It turned out that the chase was headed right for him. An intelligent man would have gotten out of the way and let the police do their job, but not Mayor Byard, Justice East of Autauga Creek.

With the city engineer screaming, "Go, Go!", Mayor Byard headed right toward the chase, finding himself face to face with the suspect's vehicle headed straight toward him.

I should note that the city planner was the only person in the car with a brain. He was urging the mayor to pull over and get out of the way.

Fortunately for the mayor and his passengers, the vehicle being chased darted into the other lane, after which it was stopped by city police vehicles. When Mayor Byard arrived, those in attendance burst into applause, with some calling him "Little Emory."

To explain that last, when Emory Folmar was mayor of Montgomery, he used to show up at crime scenes packing his own heat. Folmar was ultimately voted out of office, although his gun-toting was not a factor. The arrogance that led him to feel he could play Junior G-man, on the other hand, was a factor in his defeat.

Mayor Byard should take note.

High speed chases give me the hives anyway. I worked with a man who was in critical condition for weeks and out of work for months because of high speed chase in Montgomery. He was minding his own business when the fool being chased crashed into him, damn near killing my co-worker.

While chases look cool on TV, they are potentially deadly in real life, often to people who are not actual participants in the chase.

So here are the Prattville police, risking the lives of the populace to catch a purse snatcher, of all things, and here's the mayor of the city coming close to getting himself and two other city officials, killed while playing cops and purse snatchers.

I live near Prattville (but outside of its jurisdiction, fortunately) and I work for the City of Birmingham. Mayor Bernard Kincaid of Birmingham gets plenty of photo ops without feeling the need to intervene in dangerous police situations. Mayor Byard needs to talk to his publicist about safer alternatives to getting column inches in the "Montgomery Advertiser."

So, tell us, Mr. Mayor, if you had crashed head-on in this incredibly dangerous alleged criminal, what good would you have done for the City of Prattville? Worse, if your action had caused an innocent bystander to killed, how would you feel now? And to the Prattville Police Department, someone in your group should explain that applauding foolish actions, even those by the Mayor, is highly inappropriate. Perhaps the Chief of Police might take time to explain to Hizzoner what the mayor's job entails and how it doesn't include getting involved in dangerous police activities.

You might want to stop basking in the glory of your press clippings and think about that for a second, Mr. Mayor.

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