Rockford police certainly did their image no good in their recent handling of an incident involving Tom Klonicki.
The possible picture of several brawny cops beating a man who was panicked and disoriented after coming out of a seizure does not sit well with most folks in this town. How many of us take medication that can change our emotions, especially if compounded with another condition such as diabetes/low blood sugar?
We went through this a number of years back when a mentally disturbed resident attacked an officer, went for his gun, and was beaten until he wasnt breathing anymore. The question still
exists as to whether or not Dismuke was on drugs/medication, making him impossible to handle. In any case, the city paid out a pretty good chunk of money to his survivors as a result of his death.
This kind of thing is partly an expression of the undercurrent of frustration and rage in American society that modern life seems to spawn. But cops are supposed to control that; theyre supposed to be trained and able to deal with this kind of situation without pounding a frightened, confused or even mouthy individual into the ground.
The motto is to protect and serve, not persecute and suppress. The first question in my mind was: why does it take half-a- dozen or more officers to deal with one man?
When I was a police reporter and the department got a call of a bunch of rowdies raising hell in a local bar, throwing bottles and chairs, they sent two officers. They went in, knocked some heads, and things quickly became quiet. The offenders went to jail for the brawl.
This was just one man with a medical condition. Reason could have been employed instead of force. True, the facts of this incident need to be determined, and this reporter was not there. But I have seen similar situations in the past, and I have seen them handled without this kind of scenario.
I would hope that internal affairs will be taking a hard look at this call and what was done and what was not done. If warranted, departmental charges ought to be brought against the responders responsible. If the chief cannot provide adequate discipline, then let them appear before the fire and police commission to explain themselves.
Power and authority are commodities easily abused. Once overstepped, if they are not reined in, things go quickly down hill.
Among the current crop of rookies, I have noticed some who have an attitude that is anything but respectful of the public that pays their salaries. Some of them display a storm trooper mentality and seem to believe they are licensed to pound on the citizenry.
There are older and wiser heads in the cop shop. Let them pass on some of their know-how to this younger crowd and caution them to employ better judgment, or we will have more and possibly worse incidents of this kind.
Lets hope the new chief, when he takes over, will get a better handle on whats happening on the street. This incident should not have happened.
We dont need or want any Rodney King cases in Rockford. Most of our police do a good job and dont step outside the limits set by law, but it is time to take another look at procedures and daily attitudes on the street. Most importantly, training for medical and psychological responses is a must. Also, more training in arm-bar and pressure-point take downs must be stressed.
Enough fear is being generated by Washington D.C. and the national media without still more being produced by our police department.
If police hope to have the continued support of the taxpayers and citizens, this kind of thing must stop. Brute, striking force is not always the answer.
If what Tom Klonicki alleges is true, at the very least, the Klonicki family deserves an apology.