Friday, January 15, 2021

Cd’A Police, thanks for keeping everybody safe

| June 10, 2020 1:00 AM

In the days when sailing ships ruled the seas during times of war, massive amounts of gunpowder were stored in a hold below the water line. These gunpowder magazines were dry because wet powder is the surest way to lose a battle, and being below the water line, the hold could be flooded in an emergency.

Sailors in these ships feared fire more than any enemy. No flame was ever allowed in a gunpowder magazine, an obvious precaution. But even 250 years ago, there were special slippers that had to be worn by whomever brought powder from the magazines up to the cannons. One inadvertent spark could instantly shatter a 1,600-ton battleship and kill every man aboard.

This historical fact came to mind often last week, when Coeur d’Alene found itself in the middle of a gunpowder magazine. Citizens from all walks of life — some armed with raised fists and words on placards, some armed with semi-automatic weapons — exercised their right to free speech in their own way. And in the meantime, criticism of the Coeur d’Alene Police Department rippled through the community.

Some of that criticism accused the department of not keeping people feeling safe because of all the guns downtown. Some criticism accused the police of not disbanding the unarmed protesters who allegedly were defying the governor’s social distancing requirements. In short, the notion that police had to step in and take action was echoed across the political spectrum — the difference being, whom the police should specifically take action against.

With the support of Mayor Steve Widmyer and the Coeur d’Alene City Council, the Coeur d’Alene Police Department did exactly what it’s here to do: Our police force kept everybody safe by refusing to create a devastating spark.

There was no violence, no looting, no reports of actual harm done. If you want to give all the credit to the armed and unarmed protesters, please feel free, because they certainly deserve a great deal of praise. But treading lightly in a powder magazine takes discipline, smarts and no small measure of courage, as Chief Lee White and his outstanding force have just reminded us.

They also reminded us that sometimes slippers are more powerful than they look.