OPINION – Look up the word “magnanimous” in the dictionary and Dennis Mitchell’s picture ought to be in the definition.
The Santa Clara resident’s friends describe him as a gentle, rational and good man, which makes it all the more disturbing that his encounter with a park ranger at Grand Canyon National Park left him in handcuffs.
Mitchell and his group of fellow hikers had just completed a 24-mile hike and were driving back to their other vehicle when a park ranger pulled them over. The ranger stopped them for alleged seatbelt violations since there were 10 people in the car and only eight seatbelts.
In the heat and the limited confines of the vehicle, Mitchell began to have severe cramping. He asked the ranger if he could exit the vehicle to stretch his limbs but was denied permission each time. As the cramps became unbearable, Mitchell began to open the car door to stretch his legs, and the ranger yanked him from his vehicle and arrested him.
When all was said and done, Mitchell received citations for not having all passengers in seat belts and failing to comply with the officers.
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How, in a free country, does the simple act of ferrying fellow hikers back to their vehicle snowball into criminal charges and a court appearance?
Mitchell will never be mistaken for an outlaw biker or MS-13 gang member on the prowl. But his failure to submit and obey the commands of an indifferent park ranger ended up with him being treated like a criminal threat. His medical condition took a very distant second place to the ranger’s desire for control.
Such encounters are becoming more common for visitors to the national parks.
A coworker recently related to me how members of his family were fortunate enough to get permits to hike the Subway in Zion National Park. The rules only allow a limited number of people to hike the trail each day. Group size is also strictly limited to minimize their impact on the environment.
My coworker’s mother was in one group, while his brother was able to hike with another group. Roughly halfway through the hike, his mother encountered a park ranger and asked if he had seen her son’s group. The ranger asked her name and then radioed one of his colleagues.
As the faster group of hikers came to the end of the trail, a park ranger asked each hiker if they knew my coworker’s mother. Every person who answered “yes” was handed a $180 citation. The rationale behind the citations was that, by knowing someone from another group, they had somehow cheated the system.
The tickets were later dismissed, but can anyone honestly claim that the rangers were solving a problem rather than simply creating one?
As tempting as it is to focus solely on power-tripping rangers, they are merely a symptom of a much larger problem. Park rangers, and other members of law enforcement, are increasingly trained to view and treat the public as a threat. That means everyone, without exception.
Perhaps this is why until just recently, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies were using “no hesitation” targets to train with. These targets depict lifelike images of grandparents, mothers, children, even pregnant women, all holding a handgun. The stated purpose for the creation of such targets is that law enforcement had requested them, “in order to give officers the experience of dealing with deadly force shooting scenarios with subjects that are not the norm during training.”
This is part of a larger authoritarian mindset that now permeates all levels of government.
It’s even more disturbing to see the reader comments on the KSL story seeking to justify and celebrate the manhandling of Mitchell. The comments reveal a social conditioning that leads some to applaud this abuse of power as a means of “keeping us safe.” They have been fooled into believing that the words “citizen” and “supplicant” mean the same thing.
Eric Peters explains, “People not only no longer chafe at being ordered around by buzz-cut barking goons – they have been conditioned to revere their tormenters as selfless heroes working ever-so-hard to “protect” them!”
Mitchell did not deserve to be arrested. He has taken the higher road of forgiving and moving on. But the problem remains.
We need peace officers not law enforcers. Until we understand the difference between the two, we’d better get used to being treated like criminals.
Ed. Note: St. George News made inquiry of the National Park Service’s spokesperson for the Grand Canyon National Park concerning the interest. No response to our inquiry has been given.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.