Confehr: On police, personal safety, money

Friday, May 14, 2010

State Rep. Eddie Bass (D-Prospect) was the scheduled speaker Thursday at a ceremony in Rock Creek Park where an honor guard of Columbia Police was again to be part of an annual recognition of Police Officers Memorial Week.

It's May 9-15 and Lewisburg Mayor Barbara Woods signed a proclamation acknowledging the annual observance and encouraging city residents to support their police and attend the ceremony because police play an essential role in safeguarding rights and freedoms.

Eddie Bass is a former sheriff of Giles County and he's, therefore, an appropriate speaker for such an event.

"It is important that all citizens know and understand the duties, responsibilities, hazards and sacrifice of their law enforcement personnel," Woods said.

Recently, a Columbia Police officer started to teach classes in a Citizens Police Academy at the Maury County seat. The same policeman did so when working at the Franklin Police Department. The idea spread. There's now a Citizens Fire Academy as well as an academy for residents to learn about municipal administration. They're different from Leadership Marshall and Leadership Wherever classes in that there's instruction about the departments and there's usually no class project as with leadership classes.

It's a good idea and it increases public awareness as encouraged by our mayor's proclamation this week.

Personal safety issues were brought to my attention since the May 7 edition.

A front-page story included a city resident's tale of faith and vision, but hardly four hours had passed after that edition hit the streets when a former policeman called to say the man is an ex-con and dangerous.

The former inmate of a state penitentiary was asked about that a few hours later when he called in to say thanks for the story.

"Oh yes," he said. "It's true."

He'd been in a shootout with police.

It must have been dangerous, but less deadly than the plot in a spaghetti western movie where gunslingers' bullets hit their mark. He missed and, apparently, he wasn't shot either. Other crimes led to the shootout.

My caller spent years in prison.

There were other stories offered. We spoke about James Earl Ray, the Kennedy assassination and how the old state penitentiary was dubbed Disneyland because of its architecture.

He also knew that a former network news courtroom sketch artist sympathized with the man who assassinated Martin Luther King, and that she married Ray.

She also divorced him when she finally realized the truth.

One of our city councilmen has held several administrative positions with the Tennessee Department of Corrections and his advice was the same about the man who had such an inspiring tale of faith and vision.

Still, people can change and the concept of corrections instead of punishment seems to have the upper hand in the name of the department that administers state prisons.

Meanwhile, it's budget time. City, state and county government leaders are reviewing revenue reports and spending figures. Fortunately, there's a recognition that some spending can't be eliminated. We took that comment from a councilman to mean that public safety is recognized as among the first responsibilities of government.