The Charlotte News

Thursday, July 13, 1939


Site Ed. Note: The tragic consequence of police chases, still sometimes in evidence today, and too often today, for the cheap sensationalism of tv cameras, thence leading an urchin to commandeer some big, big vehicle, leading the police to give chase to assure the community law and order reigns, leading the adult urchins to cover the story double-quick, leading to following the lemmings down to the sea...

Their Duty

They'll Do It If It Kills Every One Of Us

At Portland, Me., Mrs. Helen Resnick, 66, operated the largest souvenir shop in town, in connection with her son, Arthur Resnick. In Portland also lived up Mr. William Arthe, who ran a jewelry store. The Resnicks and Mr. Arthe decided it would be nice to go down to New York and see the World's Fair and so they climbed into the Resnick car and started.

At Sutton, Mass., four men, three of them known to the police, rolled up to a filling station in an automobile said to be stolen, had their tank filled with gas, fled. Behind then came two Massachusetts State Police cars in hot pursuit. Presently the cars were traveling at more than 70 miles an hour. At that speed the pursued car met the Resnick car on a curve, smashed into it.

They buried Mrs. Resnick and her son yesterday. They buried also two of the men known to the police. Mr. Arthe is in the hospital, near death. In the pursued car they found some burglar tools and pistols. Police said they think the men were on their way to rob a bank when the chase began.

They "think," you see, and that makes it all right that they were hurling a deadly weapon over a road infested with innocent people at 70 miles an hour. The cops were only doing their duty in the standard American fashion--chasing a stolen automobile full of stolen gas at any risk at all. Too bad that the Resnicks and Mr. Arthe had to die. But the cops were doing their duty--in the standard American fashion.

Philological Note

The McNutt Case Expands A Word's Meaning

The growth of language in these times is wonderful to see. Now it's that word, "voluntary," which seems to be in process of being worked over.

Senator H. Styles Bridges is one of our unfavorite persons, and his attack on Paul McNutt yesterday was plainly motivated, as always, by pure partisanship. Nevertheless, he went to the point when he brought up the question of those "two per cent clubs"--an arrangement under which everybody who had a state job in Indiana while McNutt was Governor kicked in two per cent of their salaries for Democratic campaign funds. At least, it would have seemed once that he went to the point. But now--no. As Senator Minton, himself a Democrat from Indiana and a beneficee of the "clubs," explained in his ringing voice, the donation of that two per cent was entirely "voluntary."

Is that to say, then, that the jobholders in Indiana were solidly so enamored of handsome Mac and his white mane of Minton's fine voice, that they charged right up and fell over themselves dishing out the jack to them? It does not seem likely, in view of the fact that Mr. McNutt decided hastily to reconsider and give his support to Senator Van Nuys in 1938, after the latter had threatened to spill the dirt. No, "voluntary" in this case means this: you work for a Governor, he sends his agent around and suggests that the party and himself need some money to further their ambitions, he points out that, of course, everybody ought to co-operate, since, of course, the party has no use for anybody but loyal men and women. Then it occurs to you that if you didn't co-operate, the Governor and the party might so resent such disloyalty that they find another and better man or woman for your job, and so you hand over the cash. That's "voluntary."

The Messrs. G & C Merriam, Funk & Wagnalls, Oxford University Press, at al. had better call in a corps of lexicographers and set them to work at once. Their big word-books are all out of date.

The Police Muddle

The Council Capitalized On The Opportunity It Sought

It's too bad that Ed Pittman had to be blasted out as chief of police by a full-blown sensation. His service has been anything but sensational, either sensationally bad or sensationally good. To the contrary, it has been a little less than mediocre all the way through, characterized by indolence of mind and action but always by such integrity that nobody, even in the heat of argument and cross-purposes, has risen to impugn his honor.

But the majority faction of the Council had made up its mind, in advance of the sensational appearance of Judge Frank Sims yesterday, to fire Pittman and to name as his acting successor an elderly desk officer who appears to be constituted about as a Ed Pittman is. To be, that is, a man of integrity and sincerity, but lacking the vigor and the aggressiveness which the Police Department so evidently needs in a chief.

It may be argued, reasonably, that after Judge Sims' disclosures yesterday, the best interests of the department required action of a summary kind so that it might take a fresh start under new management. It may be argued quite as reasonably, however, that the obvious failure of the department to function under Chief Pittman was all the more reason for the Council to proceed cautiously and with full advice before putting someone in his stead.

It cannot be argued, in any case, that the members of the Council who had put Commissioner Grice over the department to advise them what was best to do were warranted in taking the bull by the horns and doing what they had long been of a mind to do.

Judge Sims' Charges Find An Avid Audience

It was inevitable that the portion of Judge Sims' discourse which received the closest attention was that charging this behavior with prostitutes to three officers out of more than a hundred. And these officers, whom he named, as well as those alleged to have committed perjury to obtain convictions, as well as those singled out for sheer animal cruelty (some of whom he did not name), ought to be cited at once to appear before the Civil Service Commission and be tried and dealt with according to the evidence. That, on its face, is necessary on all counts.

But individual misconduct there always will be in any force of men such as in a police department, and the astonishing thing about these instances is not that they are said to have happened but that are said to have happened with total impunity to those concerned. What it indicates is not only a great lack of discipline and supervision in the department but supine indifference on the part of the commissioned officers, chiefs, captains, lieutenants and sergeants, to the behavior of their men.

Even so, the misconduct of a few officers was only the incidental fireworks of Judge Sims' report, leading up to his indictment of the whole police and penal system. They served the purpose, to be sure, of engaging attention. But we are not sure that they did not, at the same time, obscure the deeper significance of what the Judge was talking about.

The Sensation Has Burst; Now For Its Aftermath

People always turn out agog for the racy stuff involving lewd men and women. The genus homo has a great and rather self-convicting curiosity about illicit sexual relations. But if we get the deeper significance of Judge Sims' exhaustive report and the burden of the long story he told yesterday, this was incidental to his plea for absolute uprightness in the agencies to which society delegates authority over the human beings who may violate its rules. He is bespeaking diligence, that is, in arresting and prosecuting criminals; indicting the abuse of the police badge and harassing inferiors, crying for justice and fair treatment unto the least of these even as we would demand and get it for our more influential selves.

This can come about, of course, through no simple change of names in police chiefs, through no public excitement which promptly subsides, through no factionalism on the City Council. It can come about only through the sustained interest of the people in their governments and the agencies of those governments, and we may be pardoned the skepticism, born of experience, that the people are capable of any such enduring mood.

And so we have had a sensation. Now remains to be seen what will come of it.


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