Small Town Cop Will Keep Job Despite Libertarian YouTube Rant

Mark Kessler is the chief of police for Gilberton, Pa. He's been mired in recent controversy for his July posting of a video in which he demonstrates defensive pistol techniques on a fake Nancy Pelosi — which is actually a poster of a clown — and lets loose a string of expletive-filled rants.  This was obviously going to be offensive to some viewers, but does this video mean that he should lose his position as police chief? In a word, no. Here's the lamentable reasoning why not:

Kessler exceeds the bounds of professional deportment with his actions in the video, but he does it on his own time and with his own money.  It is further off-putting that he appears to be wearing his police uniform in the video, but even if he is, he does not claim to represent his city government or people.  Kessler has said that he is representing “those who are afraid” to stand up for their constitutional rights.

Furthermore, Kessler is not doing anything illegal in the video. He didn't make it while on duty. Professional behavior is important, but who has not been at least mildly immature on their off time?  We would be hard pressed to find a politically active person in the United States who has not bashed their rival party and its leaders. 

Furthermore, Gilberton is a town of only 867 people.  This is and should only be an issue for their consideration.  If the people of Gilberton do not have a problem with such an officer of the law, then those outside of the community should not impose their beliefs. 

Gilberton Mayor Mary Lou Hannon said the city would “not take action to quash free speech”.  Free speech is just what this is.  He is not inciting violence or promoting criminal activity.  He is just voicing his thoughts, however inappropriate and evocative they may be. 

As long as Kessler keeps any political inclination or creative view out of his on-the-clock work and law enforcement, maintains a professional attitude on duty, and keeps the support of his superiors — like the mayor — then there should be no question over his continued employment.  On a practical note, he is also the only police officer in the town.  If Kessler were fired, Gilberton would lack law enforcement completely until his spot was filled.  However, if you do not quite support his views or actions there is no harm in letting him know via comments, perhaps on his "apologetic" video for dissenters.


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George Hartmann

Georgetown University Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service Class of 2014

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