Opinion

The Urination Police make their pitch

You know you’re getting older when you don’t know most of the new cops and prosecutors who are cavorting around the courthouse complex, but you do know, and pretty well, all the folks who seem to be leaving, whether it’s via death — former Port Orchard Police Chief Joe Mathews — or retirement — Kitsap’s longtime head jailer, Larry Bertholf.

The Independent gave Bertholf a nice sendoff two weeks ago on its county page, noting his 34 years of service to the Kitsap County Sheriff’s department, the last 20 as chief of corrections, but I believe you can never say goodbye to someone who’s a good guy too many times.

I’ve always liked Larry. He had a sort of jovial, bluff, hail-fellow-well-met personality. Although reporters seemed to spook him a little — he had come of age during the Pat Jones era, and for the aforementioned Mr. Jones the best reporters were, like bad children, seen but not heard — Bertholf grew over the years.

Getting information from Jones and most of his cronies was an all-day job. They didn’t seem to care if reporters, or by extension the public, really knew what was going on or not.

But when the reporter-friendlier regime of  Steve Boyer loosened the reins a bit, Larry really took the bit.

Much of what we talked about in his second-floor office at the courthouse never made it into the Independent, which is, after all, a community newspaper. But Larry held back less and less as the years we knew each other piled atop each other, and I always felt he was shooting straight with me.

In addition, he was, under the somewhat crusty cop surface, a warm and funny man.

He was also a very good athlete, a golfer in his dotage,  and a semi-pro baseball player in his youth.

Bertholf was a big guy, on the inside as well as the outside, and he’ll be missed.

n Americans love to talk about how free we are, but I’m starting to wonder about the creepily intrusive nature of our government, even on the county level.

Many otherwise freedom-loving Americans seem to broadly support the Patriot Act, even when its statutes are turned against drug dealers and other domestic criminals who have nothing to do with terrorism.

I’m for law and order but not at the expense of our hard-earned civil rights.

I’ve covered many stories in which alleged child molesters were first tumbled to because of things they looked at on their own personal computers.

I remember thinking then that it didn’t seem quite right — busting Americans, however perverse they might be, for looking at what you and I might consider filth, in the privacy of their own homes.

But I never spoke up in print,  because who would want to seem weak on child molestation? Not this single-parent of two teenage daughters.

Heck, even in the penitentiary, other convicts have to be kept away from the pedophiles so they won’t hurt them.

But I think law and order is becoming a little overprotective of its citizenry.

Take for example the pitch Kitsap County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jennifer Forbes made recently to the commissioners to revise the policy on public urination.

Forbes said that although the revision of the ordinance tooks months to “craft,” public urination is “not a rampant problem.”

Forbes was quoted as saying the most common instances of public urination were connected to public drunkeness, not sexual perversity.

The amended ordinance would raise the fine for public urination from $250 to $1,000.

Forbes claimed in this newspaper that $250 doesn’t even cover court costs. I’d like to see that spread sheet, but even if she’s right, then why not raise the fine, if raise we must, to $500.

Isn’t a mere doubling of the penalty sufficient?

But it was the last line in Charlie Bermant’s news story about public peeing that caught my attention.

Here it is: “A fine could be assessed for a citizen urinating on his or her own property if he or she was visible from the street.”

Big Brother is watching you and you better not take a whiz, even in your own back yard.

This is not only ridiculous, it’s a little scary.What’s next? Having kids tattle on their parents at school and then sending cops around?

That’s what the Nazis did. Not to mention the Chinese under Mao.

Let’s report anyone who looks slightly Arabic who has a camera on a ferry — this has happened multiple times already on the Bremerton-Seattle run (all vacationers) since Sept. 11.

By the way, nobody who looked like Tim McVeigh was turned in for snapping his digitals.

Let’s demand dress codes for our teenagers in high school while we’re at it. Guns don’t kill teen people. Other teen people don’t kill teen people. Baggy drawers and tattoos kill teen people.

Damn fashion and peer pressure. Make  the little geeks dress  like Grandpa.

Let’s report anyone downloading porn on any computers screens we happen to see, too. Hey, everyone who looks at porn is potential child molester.

And, oh yeah, you better not pout, you better not shout, the Urination Police are coming to town.

Aren’t there real criminals to catch?

Meth cookers. Meth dealers. Drunken drivers. Wife beaters.

I’m against arresting anyone for peeing in their yard. Even my neighbors. If you’re going by my house and you don’t really know me, you shouldn’t be staring into my yard anyway.

Dennis Wilken is a former Port Orchard Independent reporter.

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