In last Sunday's column, Dr. Gridlock criticized the U.S. Park Police handling of a three-day standoff with a North Carolina farmer who drove into a pond on the Mall and claimed he had a bomb.
Instead of disabling the man with, say, a tranquilizer dart fired from a helicopter (usually safe for all parties), Park Police decided to talk with him on wireless phones. They closed Constitution Avenue, creating mammoth rush-hour traffic jams and trapping thousands of motorists in their vehicles. Finally, 47 hours into the standoff, police fired tear gas pellets at the man, and he immediately surrendered. He had no bomb.
Police congratulated themselves because no one was hurt. Never mind the trapped motorists. I asked for your opinions. A sample:
From Michael R. Kelley of North Beach: I agree with your Sunday remarks completely. I was appalled at the way police let 47 hours and four rush hours go by.
Every time I saw the U.S. Park Police chief on television, I said to my wife: This woman should be relieved of duty and sent to patrol some distant national park on horseback.
From Brent Malcolm, Silver Spring: So the [Park Police] is wallowing in self-congratulations, because no injuries occurred in this confrontation. But what about the thousands of wasted man-hours and thousands of gallons of squandered gasoline and the associated emissions added to our already polluted air?
How hard could it have been to stun or disable this zealot in the first hour or so after the standoff? Not very.
From Luis C. Ribas, Annandale: The case was so laden with idiots that the officers in charge should have been tranquilized and taken away.
From Gerald A. Connell, Alexandria: You nailed it. The Park Police person who made the decision to shut things down for days should be placed in a position where she will never decide anything more important than what to order for lunch.
From Hugh Thatcher, Fort Belvoir: I don't think you are being responsible by bashing police who go out each day willing to put their lives on the line for you and me. You might want to think about the ramifications of what you write.
From John Robbins, Olney: To the authorities who handled this situation, I'd say stop patting yourselves on the back about how you avoided a tragedy, and start thinking about what one individual was able to do to this city because of your inaction.
From Joe Ganley, Vienna: So this is what we've come to? Avoiding traffic delays is now worth the risk of a man's life? Neither tranquilizer guns nor any of the other weapons you mentioned work instantly, and could potentially leave time to detonate an explosive.
The Park Police resolved a dangerous situation with no injury to people or property, and you are complaining that they tied up traffic for a couple of days.
From Robert D. Paul, McLean: The only medal the U.S. Park Police deserve is the "Croix de Ultimate Incompetence." They haven't the slightest idea how to deal with situations such as the tractor in the pond.
While U.S. troops handle crisis situations by the moment, the U.S. Park Police have neither the knowledge nor the gumption to protect the nation's capital from one person.
From H.B. Shore, Gaithersburg: Why is it that in situations like this (the would-be suicide jumper on the Wilson Bridge also comes to mind), the police act as though their first duty is to protect the criminal, rather than promote the safety and welfare of the public?
From Berj Shamigian , Lexington Park: I had a medical appointment at 22nd and K streets NW during this situation. I tried for three hours to get there from the South Capitol Street Bridge. I had to give up.
The Park Police say that safety is their first priority. Whose safety?
Dr. Gridlock again. I am not comfortable with the way this was handled. Particularly considering how extra-vulnerable we are in the nation's capital in wartime. We need new police policies -- or new leadership -- before the next bomb threat.
You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, town, county, and day and evening phone numbers.