It doesn’t happen often, but there have been a couple times over the past several years that I realize the headlines are taking a toll on me. That’s not good since it’s those headlines that allow me to earn my living. I never know from day to day what clients will want and the fact they’re scattered across the globe means there is absolutely no consistency in my daily routine. This week, I had to be awake when the U.S. markets opened so I could hit a deadline for a client in Brisbane. So that, coupled with all the horrible news on the national and global fronts, has me in overload and I guess “exhausted” is the best way to describe what I’m feeling.
But there are those stories much closer to home that are just as disturbing and have left me wondering “what’s next?” In this month alone, three small town law enforcement agencies in my neighboring state of Alabama have learned their leaders, either the sheriff or police chief, have been anything but law abiding.
On March 4, Elberta, Alabama’s police chief was arrested and charged for filing false police reports, evidence tampering and even firing his police-issued gun into an occupied building. Mickey Pledger said someone fired at him as he was leaving the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Department. He returned fire and even fired into the sheriff’s department. After he failed a polygraph, he finally admitted he made the entire story up and even staged a shell casing so that when it was found, it would match his story.
This week, another small town police department found its police chief and another officer in front of the town council. Both Dwain Riebeling and Quentin Bettner had been on administrative leave. The council voted to fire both of them at this week’s meeting. Riebeling was accused of improperly investigating a shooting which he ruled a suicide (it wasn’t), failure to follow instructions, threatening another police officer and then forcing him to resign, neglect of duty and several other charges. Bettner was accused of negligent use of town property resulting in damage, insubordination and other charges.
Perhaps most disturbing, however, is news tonight that yet another small town Alabama police chief was arrested and charged with rape and an ethics violation. What has me absolutely fuming is that the local television station interviewed one of the city council members in Frisco City who promptly said she did not believe there is a victim and that she doesn’t believe Ronald Marshall is even capable of such a brutal crime. Councilwoman Mary Maloney said, “I can’t say, you know, about him dealing with different women, now that’s something, but as far as rape, no I do not believe he raped anybody”. I am still dumbfounded as to why this woman – this public officer – would say the victim is lying. This is a huge problem – in our society, we simply do not believe the victim and often, the victim becomes the target of hateful words. At a minimum, Maloney had an obligation to her constituents to remain impartial until the facts are discovered. An across the board statement like that has long term repercussions and her ignorance is as much a reason for being removed from office as any of these law enforcement personnel.
Ironically, this is also the second time this week that a rape victim has come forward only to have high ranking officials take the side of the accused in this area. I’m working on that one right now and will have it available tomorrow.