Saturday, November 03, 2007

Creativity or Chicanery?

By Alan Burkhart

Cass County, ND Sheriff Paul D. Laney recently used a rather creative sting operation to nab 3 dozen non-violent fugitives. Okay, good for him. Get the crooks off the street. It is important however, to note exactly how he went about it. In a society that believes in and (usually) practices the principle of "equal protection under the law," the means is of equal importance to the end result in law enforcement. One can't help but wonder if the good Sheriff hasn't broken a few laws himself.

Setting the stage...
Shock rock legend Ozzy Osbourne was scheduled to do a concert in Fargo, ND on October 29th. Sheriff Laney took advantage of the opportunity by mailing fake “VIP tour packages” to forty non-violent fugitives. The packages, similar to Ozzy’s actual VIP tour packages, were sent under the name “PDL Productions.” Thirty-six of the forty invited fugitives showed up for the pre-concert party and were promptly arrested.

At first glance, one might simply think that Laney had pulled a smart and effective trick on a bunch of low-level scofflaws. A deeper look, however, reveals much more. It’s doubtful that any criminal charges will be brought against Sheriff Laney. But one cannot help but to call his character into question.

For starters, he grossly misused Ozzy Osbourne’s name. No one asked his permission to use his name in a sting operation of which he had no knowledge. Also consider the possibility that Laney committed forgery by sending out the fake VIP tour invitations. Adding to the insult, Laney held a televised press conference to pat himself on the back for his cleverness.

And Ozzy ain’t happy about it.

Says Ozzy...
"Sheriff Laney went out of his way to tarnish my reputation by implying that I somehow attract a criminal element, which is certainly not true. My audiences are good hard-working people who have been hugely supportive of my music for nearly four decades. They have also been very supportive of my wife Sharon's colon cancer charity by raising over a million dollars (partly through VIP ticket sales) at my shows. It's obvious to me that this sheriff has an agenda and is just trying to make a name for himself on my back." (A-Z Heavy Metal)

And this brings me to a question. First consider this quote from Sheriff Laney:
"Why did we do this? The criminals are creative, so we had to get creative too...'' "They give us fake addresses, fake phone numbers, sometimes their families cover for them, sometimes their employees cover for them." (ABC News)

But Sheriff, if you knew where to send the invitations, why did you need to engage in the misuse of someone’s name to pick these losers up? Could you not have simply gone after them instead of descending into such chicanery? I could perhaps understand his actions had he been pursuing a dangerous and violent felon - and chances are Ozzy would have applauded his actions. But no, these fugitives were dead beat dads, people who didn’t show for court on minor offenses, and other such losers, who while in violation of the law presented no danger to society.

Says Ozzy...
"Instead of holding a press conference to pat himself on the back, Sheriff Laney should be apologizing to me for using my name in connection with these arrests," Osbourne said in a statement released by his publicist. "It's insulting to me and to my audience, and it shows how lazy this particular sheriff is when it comes to doing his job." (ABC News)

I’m not defending Ozzy. The guy has nothing positive to contribute to society and is well-known for his gross and disrespectful behavior. But I do insist upon the proper treatment of all citizens by law enforcement. An out-of-control sheriff is a far larger hazard to society than an over-aged degenerate like Ozzy. And given the apparent size of Laney’s ego, he may well step farther across the line if he’s not put on a short leash.

We The People have every right to hold law enforcement to at least the same standard of conduct expected of the rest of us. To unnecessarily engage in such a deception, and to steal the name of a public figure is simply unacceptable. Shame on you Sheriff Laney, for failing to meet the standards of the uniform and badge the people of Cass County allow you to wear.