Opinion: Armchair quarterbacks need to know time, place

Steve Rogers
By: 
STEVE ROGERS
Staff Writer

Thursday evening provided quite a stir in normally slow-paced West Point when a man with apparent mental health issues and who wasn’t taking his medicines shot at sheriff’s deputies and then started what turned into a 10-hour standoff.

Some elements of social media, as often happens, turned the incident into a rumor-filled frenzy.

While social media and the technology that supports it can play a valuable role in today’s society, it also can get out of control. But it’s really no different — other than instantaneous and anonymous — than the “phone trees,” “party lines,” beauty parlors and barber shops in the 1950s through the 1970s to e-mail explosions during the 1990s.

While some of the rumors and speculation were understandable, given the circumstances, some posts pointed to the worst parts of “instant” communication.

Some people on Facebook questioned officers speeding through town, almost running them off the road.

Really?

Good thing the responders weren’t going to that person’s house in an emergency. Wonder if they would be so objectionable if that were the case.

Others wondered why it took so many officers for just one person.

In hindsight, which always is 20-20, that’s probably a reasonable question. In the heat of the moment, it’s a slap in the face to the law enforcement agents on the scene, some part of the teams involved, and some who came to offer assistance.

I am sure Sheriff Eddie Scott, Police Chief Avery Cook and the head of the state SWAT team would have loved for some observer sitting at home on their couch to come take control and decide the right number of officers, how best to get to the scene, and how to proceed.

Armchair quarterbacks have been around longer than there’ve been armchairs, but social media today makes their commentary instantaneous. And in cases like Thursday night, inappropriate.

THUMBS UP

Thumbs up to Clay County for signing all the documents Friday in the next step toward building a new Justice Center for the county. Work should begin on the project within three weeks and be finished in a year. The next step will be renovating the existing courthouse and justice court building. In the end, county residents will have facilities of which they can be proud for generations while at the same time knowing they have preserved some important parts of the county’s history in the courthouse and the former hospital that now houses justice court.

THUMBS UP2

Thumbs up also to West Point Selectmen for their willingness to work with the Golden Triangle Boys and Girls Club to find a location for a permanent home in the community. The agency has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of families in Starkville and Columbus and can do the same in West Point and Clay County.

That work will start with summer camp this year. Those camps will lay the groundwork for a permanent home, demonstrating to clients and the community the value of the programs.

The city’s willingness to help shows its forward thinking. It has offered the agency the same thing it gives families, a hand up and not a hand out.

We can look forward to the day when that support pays off in a permanent Boy and Girls Club facility.

A SLAP ON THE WRIST

While I’m patting the supervisors on the back for reaching another milestone with the justice center, I would be remiss if I didn’t slap them on the wrist for allowing a candidate for office to speak to them and ask for their votes during their meeting Thursday. Politicizing their meetings is bad enough, cooing over the candidate and promising votes is totally inappropriate.

Certainly supervisors are politicians and they make political decisions. But their meetings are not and should not be election forums. Those activities must be separated into the supervisors’ own private lives.

In this case, the supervisors have now opened the door for every other candidate to come speak and ask for their support and assistance in rounding up votes. And what are they going to tell this candidate’s opponent?

Even worse, by allowing the candidate for judge to come speak and by promising support, the board may have opened itself up to claims of conflict down the road should this candidate win and have to hear a case involving the county.

Supervisors make policy and decisions they think are good for the county. They don’t elect candidates, at least not as a board, and shouldn't. Clay County supervisors must understand the difference between politics and politicizing their jobs.

STEVE ROGERS IS THE NEWS REPORTER FOR THE DAILY TIMES LEADER. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN THIS COLUMN ARE HIS AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS OF THE NEWSPAPER OR ITS STAFF

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