When the nine Sikeston residents stood before Judge Frank Marshall in city court last Thursday, police say they had played a role in the fight and confrontation with police earlier in the week. Police had been called to the 1000 block of Ruth St. as a result of a fight in progress. When police arrived, a crowd estimated at 80 people, threw bottles and bricks at the officers. One Public Safety officer was struck by a brick.
The nine defendants were arrested - as were four more the following day in an identical situation in virtually the same location.
Public Safety Director Drew Juden had earlier voiced his strong concerns about the safety of his officers. And that message apparently had an impact on Judge Marshall.
Each of the nine defendants - instead of being fined for their part in the melee - was sentenced to jail. The sentences ranged from 10 days to four weeks. And when the sentences were handed down, the nine defendants were loaded in a van and transported to jail.
We applaud Judge Marshall for his appropriate sentencing for these defendants. Our community will not tolerate attacks on police. And the punishment should be swift and appropriate. No longer should we allow petty fines to be levied against such behavior. We must as a community send a strong message that this stupidity is inappropriate and illegal.
We hope and pray that police are not forced to encounter any similar incidents as the summer progresses. But if they should occur, we urge the courts to hand down jail time to those who would attack law enforcement officials. A slap on the hand is not sufficient punishment to change behavior.
And if two weeks in jail does not change behavior, perhaps six months will the next time.
We have long argued that a fine is not the answer for illegal behavior. The defendants in this case will also return to the scene of the crime this week and, clad in black and white prisoner uniforms, pick up litter near the corner of Ruth and Branum. Perhaps that public humiliation will also reinforce that their behavior will no longer be accepted.
Mayor Mike Marshall too has been vocal with his resolve to address these law-breakers. He is committed to advocating swift and stern punishment on anyone who attempts to attack law enforcement officials. The support of our elected officials is important in this process. Our community deserves better than those who hold no respect for anything or anyone.