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Judge urges citizens to ‘arm themselves’ after police budget cuts

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Monday, April 19, 2010 12:18 EDT
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Local official: Use shotguns so you kill, rather than hurt, criminals

A county judge in rural northeast Ohio has renewed his call for citizens to arm themselves in the wake of police budget cuts that have left one cruiser patrolling an entire county.

Judge Alfred Mackey of the Ashtabula County Court told residents in an interview with Cleveland’s WKYC-TV two weeks ago that the budget cuts the county implemented in recent years meant the population could no longer count on police responding in time to emergency situations.

“We are living in a large county, and you cannot count on the availability of your sheriff to come to your home if you are in danger in a prompt manner,” Mackey told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, in an interview in which he reiterated his call.

County auditor Roger Corlett says he’s seen revenue drop from $23 million three years ago to just under $18 million today. Last month, the county slashed the number of deputies from 112 to 49, and left the force with one patrol car with which deputies have to monitor a 720-square-mile area. The towns and villages in Ashtabula County have their own police forces, but that still leaves about 680 square miles to cover.

The budget problems have hit the county’s jail as well, with 700 people on a “waiting list” to serve time still in the community at large.

And the reduced policing has taken its toll. The Plain Dealer reports:

Incident reports show how stretched deputies have been as they try to deal with overlapping emergencies separated by miles and miles of country roads. One night they were delayed getting to a woman who claimed her knife-wielding husband had threatened to kill her because they were handling an arrest in another case of domestic violence.

Another night they couldn’t get to a burglary at a community center for about 1¾ hours because they were arresting a man accused of beating up his girlfriend. And the list goes on.

The situation is “absolutely terrible,” said Johnson. “We’re just keeping the peace as best we can.”

LOCAL OFFICIAL: USE SHOTGUN

For at least one local official, Judge Mackey’s call doesn’t go far enough. Monroe Township Trustee Charles Riley says people should not only arm themselves, but should arm themselves with shotguns to ensure that they kill the criminals they come into contact with.

“They should use shotguns not handguns and that way we don’t have to send [criminals] to court or to jail because they’ll be dead,” he said, as quoted at the Plain Dealer.

Not everyone agrees with Riley’s line of reasoning. Law professor Peter Moskos of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice says that an armed citizenry may be a workable alternative to a functioning police force, but it sends a bad signal.

“It does strike me as a terrible step backward for civilization to go back to individual armed citizens,” Moskos said, as quoted at the Plain Dealer. “That’s what we have government for.”

For the pro-gun group Ohioans for Concealed Carry, Judge Mackey’s declaration is a step in the right direction, but the group argues there’s no need to wait for a budget crisis to hand over policing responsibilities to the public.

“The need and the right to defend yourself doesn’t come with budget cuts and reduced law enforcement staffing,” Jeff Garvas writes at the group’s Web site. “Carrying a firearm for self-defense, and any other methods of situational awareness, were just as valid before these budget cuts as they are today.”

 
 
 
 
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