120221 Support Your Local Sheriff – Tony Biell

Support Your Local Sheriff


…and police chief. In the 1969 movie James Garner played Jason McCullough, who when considering the job of sheriff said, “Well, gentlemen, I think it’s only fair to tell you that I’d only be interested in this job on a temporary basis. Well, you see, actually I was on my way to Australia….”

In Charlotte County we have two head law enforcement officers: the county sheriff, Bill Cameron, who is elected (and who after any given term could be on his way to a figurative Australia) and the Punta Gorda police chief, Albert Arenal, who is appointed by the Punta Gorda city manager. Both officers need total support of the citizenry because their primary function is to protect and not to serve as some would assume. They are the individuals on the front lines who deal with the day-to-day disruptions of peace and who often find themselves in situations where their own safety and even their lives are at risk.

Too often we hear criticism of officers stopping people for minor traffic infractions or for officers speeding for no apparent reason. Cut them some slack! Perhaps a stopped vehicle matches the description of one just involved in a crime or the circumstances of the “minor” traffic infraction may not be as minor as perceived. Here in Florida where many cars have blackened windows, an officer approaching a vehicle he or she has just stopped, especially at night, could become involved in a very dangerous situation. We too often read about officers being shot and killed under such circumstances. Knowing the risks to which they submit themselves to protect us, how can people in good conscience grumble and pout over trivial situations with them? Shame on such people, most of who would be cowards when confronted with what law enforcement officers routinely face for our well-being

Some of us may remember the demonstrations during the ‘60’s and 70’s where the police were held in contempt by lunatic hippies and their wanna-be’s demonstrating against everything from the Vietnam War to bras. Both flags and bras were burned and the police who were trying to maintain some semblance of order were attacked and called pigs. Remember the come-back: “If you need help, call a hippie.” A whole lot of society’s current problems are the result of that hippie mentality carried forward as the demonstrators grew up, but never matured.   The writer and philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. We’re seeing a rebirth of that lunacy in the ninety-nine percenters, so it appears history is indeed repeating itself. Fortunately our officers have not had to deal with the uglier phases of this movement, but is it just a matter of time?

Traffic light cameras have been a controversial topic in Charlotte County and the rest of the country. Compare a burglary of an unoccupied business or residence to the running of a red traffic light. Which is the greater crime? The burglary in itself poses no danger to anyone, but running the traffic light poses danger to many: the violator himself, his passengers, other drivers and other passengers who may be seriously injured or killed. However, a burglary is usually a felony and the traffic light violation involves only a summons. Does this make sense? Both are deliberate, but only the one that poses no risk to others involves jail time.

Those who object to using traffic light cameras miss the gravity of this “crime.” One’s perspective on red lights changes after seeing a forty-ton dump truck run a red light at fifty miles per hour and broad-side a soccer mom with a van full of children. Ask Charlotte County officers and EMT’s how many messes they have cleaned up due to red light runners.

Serious consideration should again be given to installing cameras at intersections within the county and providing high fines for violations. Forget excuses such as more rear end collisions. This is a bogus justification put forth by those who see no harm in running red lights and who probably do so themselves. This can and should be a significant money raiser for the county and might help minimize agonies for a few families. Let’s have a hand for the cops!


Anthony J. Biell

February 21, 2012