This time a quiet man found himself on a wanted poster.
A 42 year old man who had served his time for a sex offender crime, only weeks away from finishing his parole time, hung himself from a redwood tree.
The new law was intended to allow people access to Child Predator information for them to actively learn if neighbors have an upsetting past life. It was not meant to provide the tacit encouragement of vigilante action or by the very nature of the posters to pursue or harass individuals.
The distribution of flyers by The Santa Rosa Police was an example of poor judgment that obviously resulted in the suicide. The Santa Rosa Police Chief, discounted the concern that his actions pushed a vulnerable person over the edge. Saying the poster had no role in the suicide is complete bullshit (Or... a complete, detestable, vulgar and naked charade! ). It is disrespectful to the good and honorable officers of the Police Force. Shall the public give equal credence to his accounts of future police action... Action where public trust is needed by the officers, where it may play a role in officer safety? They, and we, deserve much better than the very incredible remarks from the Chief.
Last year, a parolee, Mr. Markvardsen had been quietly living in a neighborhood for some time before the equivalent of a Sheriff's wanted poster was sent to nearby residents. The Sheriff certainly knew beforehand the reaction his proactive and alarming notification would precipitate. Picketing, verbal harassment and a house besieged by inflamed residents demanding this person be forced to leave his home, endangered the security of someone just trying to fulfill the obligations of his parole and live quietly before moving to a less populous state and start life anew.
This is a rash and ill conceived use of "Megan's Law"!
Initiating a dangerous and volatile situation is not the proper role for Sonoma County's head of Law Enforcement. Stirring up trouble is not the responsible manner to insure a safer neighborhood for children. Child predation is undoubtedly one of the most abhorrent crimes the judicial system must address. It's an illness that seemingly defies treatment in, unfairly to both victim and perpetrator, far too many cases. But there must be another solution before a frustrated mob circles the cottage, waving torches and pitchforks to drive the monster away, or drive it over the edge.
The Courts have pronounced sentences that range from archaic to a real attempt to halt any future despicable actions. And we have an obligation to respect the consequences of the judicial system. It may be loathsome to watch O.J. Simpson play golf, but it's not acceptable to kill him. It may make your skin crawl to live near a child predator, but the very foundations of day to day living demand we not use mob rule to carry out our own interpretation of sentencing justice.
By sending the flyer to neighbors, The Authorities have issued an implicit challenge. In effect, they washed their hands of the question. If they rose in indignation and threatened violence, they had justification to take preemptive "protective" action. They would be saving a man from the volatile crowd, however the crowd found it's catalyst.
An undercurrent that accompanies all this is the possibility that some of the more hot-headed would believe they were given a subtle validation to more extreme actions. Certainly most would hesitate haranguing an untargeted someone into leaving a home. An official poster makes that an easier decision. It weakens the social reticence to punish someone for a crime that hasn't been committed.
Now, William Allan Patton is dead. Letter writer's have wept crocodile tears. With no small shove, the man did the vigilante gang's deed for them. The villagers didn't even need to raise the pitchforks again.
I'm not presumptuous enough to have any sure-fire answers. The crime he did commit in the past has a horrendous rate of repetition. But I am sure that pseudo wanted posters are an invasion of someone's privacy, who's innocent certainly until a crime has been committed.
The Authorities's action is too pro-active and heavy-handed.
The self-serving denials of messy complicating innvolvement in a suicide are sickening. The dust from sweeping the cause under the rug makes me choke.
A better means of making sensitive and volatile information available in a non-provocative manner must be utilized.
Put down the pitchforks and torches.
Pick up the, at times all too thin, veneer of a mature, compassionate civilization.
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The first piece about Sonoma County's interpretation of Megan's Law.
The Press-Democrat publishes a photo of Markvardsen in a story about him seeking an injunction from flyers being distributed displaying his photo. Read my reaction.