Fuse is long for fireworks violations

Police tolerance is understandable, mostly

By The Mercury

We enjoy fireworks —  shooting them off and watching them. We always have, though if our property were damaged by fireworks, even legal ones used carelessly, we might well have second thoughts.

It’s unwise, even dangerous, to use fireworks during dry spells, and we’re occasionally irritated by all the noise, but the latter objection is easily overcome by the fact that fireworks here are legal only for a few days a year around the Fourth of July. If we can’t be a little tolerant then, then we’re not tolerant enough.

We’re glad most members of the City Commission, which took up the issue yet again Tuesday night, want to continue to allow citizens to shoot off fireworks. And we don’t have major reservations with many of the ideas they discussed. Giving the mayor the authority to ban fireworks in an emergency after consulting with fire and other city officials seems sensible, though we would hope the fire chief’s view would carry the greatest weight. Mayor Loren Pepperd has a valid point in saying an elected official ought to take the heat for what in some circles would be an unpopular decision.

Yet we wonder how much difference the discussion of fireworks regulations will make if the director of the Riley County Police Department says his department generally doesn’t — and won’t —enforce existing regulations, especially if the violators are juveniles.

His reasons make plenty of sense, but we wish RCPD Director Brad Schoen, who rarely minces his words, hadn’t made the department’s position quite so clear and quite so public.

Director Schoen is right that there is no place to detain juveniles, who probably commit a disproportionate share of violations. And he’s right that the court system, with its limited budget, has other priorities. Besides, as he pointed out, what remains of fireworks after they’re shot off wouldn’t win many convictions.

Director Schoen could have told officials that individually and let residents think twice about shooting fireworks off in the streets. That’s been common practice for years,  often is done with adult supervision and, fortunately, has caused few problems. But the people doing it also knew that they could be in trouble if that car coming down the street was a police cruiser. Breaking the law, even a lesser law, was still breaking the law, and it carried at least the threat of enforcement. If that possibility is removed, about all that’s left of the law is a recommendation.

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