Rocket Man has asked me how we’re getting along in suburban Washington D.C. where sniper killings have become an almost daily event. The killings started at two locations less than three miles from where I grew up in Montgomery County. They have spread as far as Fredericksburg, Virginia near where I attended a debate tournament with my younger daughter on Saturday. However, I don’t detect the kind of general panic that is being portrayed in the media. That said, my wife reported that downtown Bethesda, Maryland was awfully quiet for a Friday night.
I don’t have any particular insight into what’s going on, nor do I know much about law enforcement. I should like to follow the excellent example of Big Trunk during the recent Minneapolis race melee and report on local print media coverage of the shootings. However, that coverage has been mostly unexceptionable apart from this preposterous headline from the Washington Post early in the affair — “Five Shooting Victims Reflect Montgomery’s Growing Diversity.”
The Washington Post has also jumped on our County’s top law enforcement officer, the excellently named Chief Moose. His sin is rudeness to journalists. Here, a local Post columnist informs us that Chief Moose has a history of “anger management” problems and difficulties handling pressure. But it isn’t just the Post that one hears raising questions about the Chief. Moose is African-American and it may be that some of the unease stems from concern about whether he was hired due in part to his race — a concern that would be heightened if the Post’s reports about problems in past jobs are true. That’s one of the insidious things about affirmative action. Its widespread use tends to create these sorts of doubts even when they are entirely unjustified, as they may well be in this instance. In any case, the problem now encompasses all of the Washington area and extends half way to Richmond. Thus, little depends on Chief Moose anymore.
Television coverage seems fixated with “profiling.” Profilers are endlessly interviewed and seem to have nothing much to say other than that the killer isn’t a nice individual. Actually, they say he isn’t a nice man. I haven’t heard any of the television profilers opine about the killers race, athough it may be that the real profilers are guessing about this too. No one seems to find profiling objectionable here, despite its bad name in the press. What I’m hearing tends to reinforce my view that, generally speaking, profiling (including racial profiling) can be a legitimate, but not terribly helpful, investigative tool.
Early on, Montgomery County publicized the fact that it had obtained a “geographic profile” of the killer which located his base of operations not far from where I grew up. This too had a “no sh_ _, Sherlock” quality to it, since this was the area where the murders to date had occurred. To the extent, if any, that the profile was insightful, one also wondered why the police would tell the killer where they were looking for him. Since then, the killer has not struck again in our county, which may have been Chief Moose’s intent. Who knows? In any case, the killer seems to feel invincible and thus should be caught soon. Let’s pray that this happens before anyone else is murdered.
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