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Federal Lawmen Deserve Support

Sun., Aug. 20, 1995, midnight

Critics of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms should take a long look at its effective work this month in North Idaho.

Who knows what man-made tragedy was prevented by the quick response of BATF agents to the theft of explosives July 30 from the Lucky Friday Mine?

Oklahoma City taught us that anything is possible.

One of three suspects arrested by federal agents reportedly confessed that he had planned to sell the explosives to a Sandpoint resident tied to the militia. Part of the explosives was to go to a “Canadian group looking to blow up a dam.” Instead, quick-acting BATF agents recovered more than 400 pounds of explosives. And Inland Northwesterners are breathing easier.

The BATF, FBI, U.S. Marshal’s Service and other federal agencies routinely face dangerous situations and ruthless criminals without fanfare. Most of us appreciate their work, realizing that law enforcement often fills a thankless but crucial role in these troubled times.

Sure. Sure. Congressional hearings proved conclusively that major mistakes were made by BATF officials at Waco at great loss of life. At Ruby Ridge, the recent suspension of four, high-ranking FBI officials and the $3.1 million settlement paid separatist Randy Weaver underscore the judgment errors made by the FBI and U.S. Marshal’s Service.

But we think those snafus are exceptions to the rule of good police work. And that the public scrutiny and congressional hearings will reduce the chances of something similar happening again.

A greater problem now is the anti-government sentiment that has triggered disrespect for law enforcement.

Few know the danger of such a mind-set better than Jodi Pogue-Turner, whose father, Bill Pogue, and fellow Idaho Fish & Game warden Conley Elms were gunned down by self-styled mountain man Claude Dallas. Dallas had such contempt for the law and human life that he shot each of his victims behind the ear after critically wounding them.

Said Pogue-Turner of her father, Elms and other state and federal officers: “You won’t find one of them that does it for the money. They’re putting their life on the line every day.”

Pogue-Turner’s father died trying to bring a criminal to justice. So did U.S. Deputy Marshal William Degan. And the four BATF agents who fell at Waco. Unfortunately, many Americans believe wrongly that they deserved their fates.

Some are clamoring to disarm federal agents.

Such sentiment endangers dedicated, hard-working officers and pushes us closer to the brink of chaos.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board

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