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police & fire

Like bringing a gun to a snowball fight….

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

One thing you can be sure of: Do something wrong, or stupid, in front of lots of people and plenty more will end up seeing or hearing about it, as a Washington, D.C. off-duty cop learned when he pulled his gun during a snowball fight. The sad part is that a rash, impulsive reaction will likely cost him dearly.

Now that it’s all over YouTube, Twitter and other outlets, Detective Mike Baylor has found himself on “rubber desk” duty — in which he’ll bounce from one innocuous indoor assignment to another, his gun locked away — while superiors try to get to the bottom of what happened.

They’ve certainly got plenty of evidence, courtesy of local media and lots of people with cellphone and camcorders. A blizzard of viral videos is blanketing the Internet.

The “fight” actually originated as a one-off goof: Yousef Ali, a media and technology geek,  spent several hours on Twitter and other social media platforms to create a social networking gag similar to the “flash mobs” of years ago, when throngs of people suddenly massed in one spot on cue and then dispersed just as quickly.

Saturday’s stunt began at a public intersection in Northwest D.C. at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Before you knew it, more than 200 people were involved. It wasn’t just any intersection, though: Celebrations had been held there, as had riots many years ago.

From all accounts, including that of the police themselves, it apparently was good clean fun (what snowball fight isn’t?) until a few fluffy white projectiles hit the plainclothes detective’s Humvee — you know, one of those vehicles originally designed to drive through mortar fire.

Well, the next thing you know….

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I feel for the officer, as his mistake quickly, well, snowballed .  Getting out of the Hummer put him in an extremely precarious position, amid a massive crowd that seemed to grow larger by the second.

It didn’t help that many in the throng took advantage of the opportunity to provoke him, especially when backups arrived. One heckler is clearly seen hitting the officer in the neck with a toss. Another clearly curses at him.

Had everyone just cooled down — including the detective — after an extremely understanding backup officer arrived, an embarrassing situation that ended with no one getting hurt could have been handled a lot more appropriately. As the backup told the crowd, anyone in the crowd could go straight to Baylor’s precinct and report him.

But, as tempers finally began to subside, some knucklehead heaved another snowball at the detective as he walked back to his truck. The officer spun around and rushed the crowd, grabbing someone he thought was responsible, then pushed him up against the hood of the Hummer.

Didn’t exactly defuse the situation.

Nor did daring some of those gathered to “throw another snowball” at least three times so he could show them the potential consequences.

Unfortunately, Detective Baylor has a snowball’s chance in hell of walking away from this unscathed. And all this from what may have been a suit of false bravado donned to mask a genuine fear he may have felt once things began to escalate.

If the final investigation shows he pulled his weapon after being pelted with snowballs, it “would not be a situation in which a member [of the force] would be justified,” D.C. Assistant Police Chief Pete Newsham, head of the department’s investigative services bureau, told The Washington Post.

I love writing hero stories. No one jumps all over a good-triumphs-over-evil tale like I do. Unfortunately, those stories don’t spread as quickly and widely through the global universe as when someone in a position of authority and responsibility loses his head, forgetting that whatever happens in public can quickly be seen by the entire world.

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