Thanks to a few videos, Gilberton Borough, Pennsylvania's Chief of Police, Mark Kessler, is indefinitely suspended. Other than being silly enough to make the videos in the first place, the thing that got Kessler in hot water was the fact that he used borough weapons to make them. While that might seem to make this a cut and dry case of a man misusing public property, but even that is a bit murky. Other than the fact that the videos went viral on YouTube, this case seems to have been fueled by the online coverage that followed.
Notably, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Raw Story seem to have turned Kessler into their own special project. The latest development - Kessler's indefinite suspension - seemed to turn into an indictment against James Yeager, a pro-gun activist in Tennessee. Yeager runs weapons training courses, and also got into a bit of a controversy over a pro-gun video that went viral at the beginning of this year. The common thread SPLC built between them was that Kessler might be moving on from law enforcement in Pennsylvania to providing some sort of weapons training program with Yeager. As Gerald Harrison, a conservative commentator on Second Amendment issues pointed out about SPLC's coverage of the Kessler case including references to Yeager:
It is interesting how in the piece there is no mention of what the police chief used that would subject him to this type of punishment. All that is highlighted is his association with James Yeager of Tactical Response where SPLC highlighted his video "Pack Your Bags". However, I noticed that they carefully omitted the subsequent videos where you find his retraction (Pack Your Bags Parts 2 & 3)
It seems to me that they're not trying "Keep an eye on the Radical Right", but insisting going on a journalistic witch hunt, and upon finding your "victim", begin a literary hatchet job on them. Simply because they have an opposing view - Yet you accuse Conservatives of not being "tolerant"?
And Harrison is absolutely right. While Yeager never did fully retract his original statement, he did say that anyone that had downloaded his original video for posting should take it down. Of course, SPLC has a copy. Considering that Yeager's statement in his second video could be construed as a legal statement withdrawing permission for anyone to distribute the original of his first video, that raises an interesting question about why a website from a "law center" would still have the original posted, through a copy in their own YouTube account. That's a legal issue that might need to be addressed between SPLC and Yeager at some point.
Raw Story has also been giving special attention to Kessler, and they apparently like to refer to him as the "libtard hating police chief". It is true that Kessler uses that term regularly in the videos that started all of this. However, there may be just a little bit of sensationalism in reporting otherwise.
Kessler told the Los Angeles Times his videos — which include him shooting at pictures he identified as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Secretary of State John Kerry — constitute peaceful political speech.
But while he has attracted supporters, at least one activist group, Keystone Progress, told the Times it had collected more than 23,000 signatures on a petition calling for him to be fired, saying Kessler’s supporters may retaliate with violence if the council moves to oust him.
“You can’t have a police chief that intimidates at least half of the population,” Keystone Progress executive director Michael Morrill said to the Times.
First, the pictures Kessler identifies as being of public officials are actually pictures of clowns. Second, perhaps Morrill isn't really sure about what the word "intimidate" means, because having an intimidating law enforcement officer should normally be considered a good thing. If that wasn't the case, then maybe Hollywood really needs to reconsider their casting choices that include "badass" policemen.
Of course, Raw Story was quick to point out that one of Kessler's videos probably depicted him shooting another clown that was meant to represent a local politician. One should say probably, because he doesn't ever refer to both a first and last name in the video, and theoretically, one shouldn't make assumptions. Again, a clown picture was used, not a picture of a politician. Throughout all these stories, the charges against Kessler are stated as "using borough property for non-borough purposes without prior borough permission."
Those charges come into a different light when one digs down to the first Raw Story piece on Kessler, before they start referring to him as "libtard-hating." There, the story includes local news footage. That video from WFMZ seems to be the only place that manages to point out that the borough property that was used without permission had actually belonged to Kessler before January of this year. He had donated weapons to the borough, and apparently he used them to make the videos. Of course that isn't mentioned - the big story is that Kessler had the nerve to not like liberals, and safely used weapons on clown targets to show his displeasure with them.
Yes, Kessler was misguided at best, and a little foolish at worst, for making these videos. He should have known better, and realized that there was a high probability that they would be highly popular online. Other than making the videos in the first place, his biggest mistake was donating his weapons to the borough before filming. Yes, he should be punished for what he did, but given that he's already been on a 30 day suspension, much more than that would far exceed his "crime." People have been putting pictures of bosses and politicians on dart boards for ages. They've undoubtedly been used on firing ranges around the country, too. These were pictures of clowns. The weapons had previously belonged to the man. There are far more serious situations out there to consider, and honestly, the likelihood that Kessler would act out on what he was thinking about any of his "targets" was severely reduced because he got to vent a little by firing at the clown pictures instead. As Harrison put it, this is a liberal witch hunt, and has been blown completely out of proportion.