I’m not sure how much national attention this story has received, but it is all over the news here in PA. We’re getting daily updates on the hunt in Northeast PA for the survivalist who shot at 2 state troopers on September 12, killing one of them. That’s right, it has been over a month now. We’ve heard about the 1000 law enforcement officers searching for him, the two cops who fell out of a tree, the diapers, the cigarettes, the ramen noodles, the camp site, the ammo, the gun, the diary, the Jeep, the social security card (What survivalist on the run doesn’t carry that?), and the sightings….But he still has not been caught.
I’ve been following the daily updates on www.philly.com. The articles are nice, they report the information that the police are releasing, but one of my favorite things to do, besides talking about the story with friends/coworkers, is to read the comments at the bottom of the articles. I realize the people commenting are mostly likely not experts and probably have no inside knowledge of the case, but I do think it is a general gauge of public opinion. The purpose of this post isn’t so much to talk about the story, but more so some of the common public opinion of the story.
First, we have a fair amount of people calling him a hero, comparing him to Rambo, and saying they’re rooting for Frein. Some say it is probably pay back from a previous arrest, some say the cop was sleeping with his sister-in-law, but either way, the cops in NE PA often do really bad things, so they argue the killing is justified. I ascribe to the non-aggression principal. I don’t think any person should use force against someone, especially deadly force, if it is not in self-defense or a few other situations. Clearly it was not self-defense if he sniped the cop from 100 yards or whatever it was. But I do think Frein’s motive matters, and we should be trying to find out what the motive was. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been anyone close to Frein who said he has a vendetta against the police. He didn’t write a manifesto, there is nothing on social media, and his friends and family seem to be shocked that he did this. The best they could find is that some people said he wasn’t a fan of the federal government. I know a lot of people who have issues with the federal government, but they don’t go killing state troopers because of it. If the motivation is that the state troopers are mistreating the people they swear to serve and protect, isn’t it worth looking at their actions? Finding a motivation is not victim blaming.
Next, you have people criticizing the search saying it is taking too long and it is ridiculous to send 1000 law enforcement officers, tanks and helicopters, and keeping residents locked in their houses, all to find a guy who killed one person. Surely they would not put forth the same effort if a civilian were murdered. Frein is isolated in the woods anyway. If he hurt anyone since the shooting it was only himself, so it is hard to argue he is a danger to the public when he is hiding in the middle of nowhere. The defenders of the cops reply, “It is easy to criticize behind a computer, if you’re so smart, why don’t you go and get him?” Well that’s not our job. We paid someone to find him, shouldn’t we be able to criticize no results? When shown that this has cost tax payers over $1.4 million/week, the defenders say no cost is too high to catch this guy. That is an absolutely absurd statement.
What is the correct cost to get this guy? Should we stop funding public schools? Stop funding roads? Should we all stop working and instead head to the mountains to catch him? Most people would agree that is ludicrous, but it makes the point that there is some cost that is too high. Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell when you have government-run policing. When the government has a monopoly on police work they can literally decide that no cost is too high. They clearly value police life more than civilian life. If it were privatized, the market could decide the cost. If he is a danger to society, I’m sure people would have no problem allocating resources to catch him. If the people pay for their security force to dress up like army men and roll the tanks into the mountains and still do not find him, they might think it is better to use their resources for something else.
Lastly, you have people adamant that this guy is a total coward and a scumbag for shooting an unsuspecting police officer who has a tough job. I’d like to hear their take on Eric Gardner or the Ferguson situation!