No good deed goes unpunished. Santa Rosa’s police force participated in a street festival in the town’s South Park (Oh my God, they killed Kenny!) neighborhood. The SWATties were there, too. They brought along a police pooch, their command van and their urban assault vehicle for the kiddies to crawl through. Cool, huh? Well, some of it was. Maybe. But they also brought along *gasp* guns…

Kevin McCallum, with the refreshingly honestly named pressdemocrat.com, breathlessly breaks the news. Almost as if he were revealing that a government agency has been aiding and abetting the illegal export of guns to drug runners. OK, bad example.

What has his knickers in a twist? Was he concerned about the militarization of police work? The no-knock raids in the middle of the night, sometimes at wrong addresses? The executed family pets? Nope.

Young children attending a festival in Santa Rosa’s South Park neighborhood Saturday were allowed to handle weapons used by the city’s SWAT team, causing some to question the appropriateness of such a display at a family event promoting safe communities.

Photos taken at the event show a Santa Rosa police officer talking with a group of youths as a young boy holds a fully-automatic assault rifle while looking through its sniper scope. Another shows a boy perhaps as young as 5 years old grabbing the grip of a riot gun on a table covered with gear beside the city’s SWAT command vehicle.

Goodness. A sniper scope. All of which caused severe cases of the vapors among the more delicate members of the community. It really is a wonder no one had their head blown off, no?

The images, which were circulated by email among a group of concerned citizens, were forwarded to Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Marsha Vas Dupre, who said she was “alarmed and devastated” by the display and questioned the judgment shown by police.

Attila Nagy, who snapped the photos and circulated them, said he’s in favor of community outreach by the police, but thinks they’d get a better response if they left their military-grade arsenal at home.

“What are young people learning from this?” Nagy asked. “No matter how you justify it, no matter how you twist it, it’s the promotion of violence.”

Alarm and devastation. You’d think the local Nazi party had goose stepped through the fair. Poor Attila won’t sleep for days. The image of the innocent neighborhood urchins holding actual guns (even under the supervision of a police officer) is just too disturbing.

To the cops, that’s exactly what they were doing – community outreach. An updated version of community policing, the theory that cops should engage the people they serve and enlist their help to identify problems.

But police and event organizers defended the display as a successful community outreach effort that is in line with the department’s efforts to demystify law enforcement generally and its SWAT team in particular.

The department has participated in the event for three years, and the community response has been positive, [Police Chief Tom] Schwedhelm said. One officer who patrols the area used the opportunity to play soccer with kids. Children and adults got to pet a police dog. And the SWAT display included the weapons they use.

“Whether you like it or not, our police have guns,” Schwedhelm said.

But that didn’t cut much ice with a member of some local bureaucratic entity or other.

Elaine Holtz said she was shocked to see children encouraged to play with deadly weapons at the event.

Holtz is a member of the city’s Community Advisory Board who was staffing its booth when she wandered down to the SWAT area. At first she saw children playing in what she called the “tank” and didn’t have any problem with that.

“Then I turned around here’s this child holding a semi-automatic rifle,” Holtz said. “That’s when the grandmother and the mother in me really thought ‘Wait a minute.’”

Holtz said she asked the officer, Perry Plattus, what the goal of the display was, and he responded that it was for “gun control,” Holtz recalled.

Hard to know how accurate Holtz’s memory was. Maybe Plattus was just appeasing her. But maybe he just didn’t elaborate fully on what he really meant. It’s a good bet that he sees allowing kids to hold the weapons as demystifying guns. Many of he kids were probably holding a real gun for the first time in their lives. Kids who aren’t afraid of guns are less likely to have a tragic accident.

…a display of SWAT firepower can have a way of teaching people that “this is not a weapon to be messed around with,” Schwedhelm said.

“Why do you think the police have weapons like this? It’s because that’s what’s needed to make the community safer,” he said

None of which will matter one little bit to people like Holtz, for whom even the sight of a gun is an affront. Remember, this is California. Land of peace and prosperity tranquility where guns are outré. Where right-thinking people don’t want even police officers showing guns to their children. Better to keep the forbidden, mysterious and therefore, an object of desire. It’s so much “safer” that way.

 

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40 Responses to Santa Rosa Cops Arm Neighborhood Children, Alarm Community

  1. …a fully-automatic assault rifle while looking through its sniper scope.

    Well, which is it? An assault rifle or a sniper rifle?

    I don’t know why anyone is willing to listen to someone’s opinion on a subject when they obviously do not grasp the most basic facts about it. Would you listen to me on the subject of cars if I talked about my Mustang s.u.v.? Would you listen to me about kitchen gadgets after I proudly displayed by 10″ paring knife?

  2. The reality is guns are really cool*, always have been cool, and the kid probably got a major thrill out of holding it. If you can do that at the same time as teaching kids guns aren’t toys and need to be handled responsibly then you’ve done two good things. Make a kid happy, and make him more responsible.

    *I think most things that are dangerous without training have a cool factor to them. Fast cars, sky diving, combat jets etc… Making them taboo is only going to make them cooler to kids. Now not only is it dangerous but you’re not supposed to have it. Do these people have any idea how kids brains work?

    • “I think most things that are dangerous without training have a cool factor to them.”

      You must be referring to my ex-GF.

    • “Do these people have any idea how kids brains work?”

      Being that most of their intellects haven’t developed past childhood themselves, I suppose it’s difficult for them to look objectively inward.

    • well,you have to have a brain to understand how a childs brain works and i don’t think they are properly equipped. lol

  3. Way back in innocent 1987, the officer assigned to our school ran my government class through a shoot/don’t shoot training film. I will always remember that film. It was nerve-wracking and completely unfair, and it drove home the point, “don’t play around with cops — they are under a lot of stress.” The punch line is — we ran the scenarios using the officer’s unloaded revolver. In the classroom. With the hippy-dippy teacher looking on.

    To be charitable, I suppose we have to allow people some freak room after Columbine. But no one in that suburban class flipped out on being handed a real gun. We trusted the officer, and if he was okay with it, so were we. It really is just a tool.

  4. Wow,I’m shocked…guns just sitting there,not harming anyone,just terrible…how will liberals continue to promote how evil those bad black guns are?

    Hey,maybe next year a live fire,(they might have an m1918 or even a tommy-gun) also “Splat-Ball” for the kids oops, “the Children”?

  5. Right here in gun-friendly Colorado, we had an even more ridiculous case of gun-phobia. In my hometown of Littleton, the City Council decided to honor the memory of a local boy who served as a SEAL in Afghanistan and was killed in combat (Danny Dietz.) The statue that they were going to put up showed Dietz in his combat uniform, complete with his M4A1 carbine.

    Local gun-haters got the vapors at the idea of children playing in a park that was overseen by the bronze representation of an actual “assault rifle” – and this (they shrieked) just a few miles from Columbine High School!

    Fortunately, this being Colorado, the erstwhile hippies were politely told to STFU and the statue was erected as designed, complete with Petty Officer Dietz’s smiling face and his deadly assault rifle, just as it should be.

    Read about the controversy here:

    http://yourhub.denverpost.com/Page/YourHub/UGC/91/9107/91079_/91079___/91079/Post/2007/04/91079_7746_289726.xml

    Also I was grossly negligent in failing to mention that not only did Dietz serve with the SEALs, he posthumously recieved the Navy Cross, the nation’s 2nd highest decoration for valor.

  6. One of my favorite former gun-bloggers Kim DuToit had a great term for this kind of reaction: He called it “PSH” or “Pants-Shitting Hysteria.”

    • Or how about the RCOB (“Red Curtain of Blood”) DuToit’s podcast was simply priceless. I wish he still produced that show.

  7. Not to nitpick, but why are Santa Rosa swaties clad in Acupat? Oh, i guess they’re being more overt about the whole militarization thing – they must really want us to view them as an occupying force.

    • I can’t speak for them specifically, but I know my local SWAT team gets a lot of milsurp gear and army hand-me-downs because its cheap and sometimes free.

      • Exactly… Here have some free stuff. Oh yeah, here’s some free training also. Hey let’s develop a “Fusion Center.” Hey let’s tell you what terrorist look like nowadays (IE. constitutionalist, anti-abortion, tea-party types.) Oh and if you guys see them acting ‘suspiciously’ just drop us a line.
        So why is it that our police need to look like the military? O.o

        • Thats not the point. They get their gear from a local surplus shop or by mail order. Not from the military directly and they definitely aren’t getting training from the weird bearded guy behind the counter that smells like rat piss.

          They do that because its cheaper and in some cases free. So which do you want? Higher taxes for uniforms that make people feel safe, or cheap/free surplus? You can’t have both.

        • I hear you AK I’m all about keeping taxes down, but the point trying to be made is ‘why’ do the police (albeit your local SWAT or mine) feel that they ‘need’ the military gear in the first place? If it is because they believe they need to respond to a militarized adversary that the feds should have dealt with at the border then we have a lot bigger problems on our hands and militarizing the police is not the answer. This road is only going to lead to a greater suspension of civil rights and down a path we dare not follow. Take note of the information regarding the Nationwide SAR Initiative (http://nsi.ncirc.gov/default.aspx). Especially the paragraph in red at the top. Like the song says “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

        • I am surprised they are in UCP as well…The pattern sucks and there are much better patterns on the market (that can be bought for the same price or less) than the Army’s UCP.

          Second, this is the SWAT team we are talking about and not some regular road patrol officer. Many of the missions that SWAT undertakes are very military-like so there is a distinct need for “military style” gear.

          I don’t know why so many people get excited about the “military” look of a SWAT team…

        • The ACU pattern works best in urban settings. It sucks in vegetation, but is an excellent choice for urban areas.

  8. I wish our local SWAT team hosted an event like this one. I’d be pushy the lil rug rats out of my way so that I’d be first in line.

  9. Back many years ago the 1st Infantry Division at Ft Riley held a similar event. They had static displays of all the aircraft and all the armored vehicles used by the Division. They had displays of all the man portable weapons systems that people, including kids, could pick up and see how much some of them weigh. What would send the folks in this article into apoplectic fits is that they had a range set up. They put Miles lasers on 4 M-16A2s and had laser reactive silhouette targets. It was mostly kids shooting and the blanks used gave a nice pop that could be heard all over the airfield. Now that is community outreach.

  10. This should happen every were in the US. Meet and greet your locals and maybe bring back the US marksmanship program. Now I’m sure that would bring out the Brady bunch trolls.

  11. Am I the only one getting reminded of the abstinence only, don’t educate, don’t talk about sex and it will go away hypothesis? How is that working out?

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