Gilberton, PA Police Chief Mark Kessler, the only police officer in the small town, released a profanity laced rant, punctuated by automatic weapon fire in defense of the Second Amendment. Without a doubt, his unapologetic diatribe garnered plenty of attention, both from supporters and those outraged by his videos. Even within the law enforcement community, there are mixed reactions ranging from qualified support to complete outrage and disgust over their view of the unprofessional conduct that in turn reflects upon the entire profession.
Given the rather pointed implications of violence towards “libtards” in general and a few in particular, it is easy to dismiss Kessler as having “lost it” and move on without giving another thought about what the rant was about. The qualified support of the mayor, some town council members and members of the community in spite of the rant, piqued curiosity to dig a bit further into the story.
Gilberton, Pennsylvania is a tiny borough in coal country and Chief Kessler served his community as its sole police officer since 1998, without incident until 2011 when his weapon discharged during his intervention in a disturbance while off duty at a bar causing an injury to his hand. In a 2012 incident involving a borough councilor, an arrest was made for harassment of the mayor. A lawsuit was filed and settled against the mayor and Kessler, alleging that the councilor was wrongfully arrested, strip searched and civil rights violated for using profanity against the mayor.
Small town politics at its not-so-finest. Even though the councilor crowed over the settlement as a victory, that result may have been more to do with legal and publicity costs of fighting the allegations compared to settling, rather than the veracity of the allegations.
In spite of this, Kessler was able to prepare, draft and successfully pass a 2nd Amendment preservation resolution through the council in January, 2013. He still had strong support from the community and council members to be successful in his efforts. He stated that he drafted the legislation “to reaffirm the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Pennsylvania’s constitution which states that the right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves or that of a free state shall not be questioned”
What was the motivation for this resolution? Within the top ten stories of 2012 were the Aurora, Colorado theater attack, the attack on the Sikh Temple, the Newtown School Massacre and the re-election of President Obama, none of which boded well for the 2nd Amendment. In addition, alarm over the U.N. small arms treaty and some congressional support for the United States joining in signing it put 2nd amendment groups and supporters of the Constitution into overdrive to if not outright defeating and preventing its signing, at least amending some of the worst provisions.
To some, it seems alarmist to waste time with a resolution in support of the 2nd amendment at the local level. This does not take into account what Gilberton has faced, especially since President Obama took office. Gilberton is a coal town. Given the Obama administration’s specific statements against the coal industry and affinity for using the EPA to circumvent Congress in an effort to further “climate change” agendas, coal’s future and that of Gilberton is anything but certain. To say that Gilberton is struggling would be an understatement.
On Kessler’s website, he dedicates it to his father, a Viet Nam veteran of whom he is proud and honors his service. Kessler has four children, was raised in the community of Gilberton, and is a school board member, in addition to his service as Police Chief. He established a group he calls Constitution Security Force in defense against federal government overreach and tyranny.
While anti-gun groups such as The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the group Keystone Progress, a liberal advocacy group have campaigned vigorously for his ouster with allegations of intimidation and anti-government insurrectional militia activity, Kessler’s supporters, including local 2nd amendment supporters have denied the allegations. Kessler himself denounced the notion of insurrection stating that he supported the rights of states to invalidate or nullify federal law. He also advised his supporters to act responsibly.
Given the overheated rhetoric from both sides in the town, one in particular alleging that Kessler had used his militia to lock the town down with a total media blackout, which was then debunked by another blogger on the same site, sorting out truth from fiction will be likely unsuccessful.
Pennlive.com covered the challenge the borough is dealing with in regards to the employment contract with Kessler through 2015. A few comments after the article provide an interesting look into the culture of a coal town and the former coal miner turned police officer.
“thats mostly my point xxxx , they are hard luck survivors who know what life is about . i grew up in a similar background and frequent the coal regions for recreational trips but am always amazed how fast those people get judged by their appearances not their personalities or giving , helpfulness ,hard working ways or traits !
seen these people help others with situations that most cringe at or run away from !
just read the characterizations in your articles on kessler and his surrounding friends in the pictures , comment sections and you will see my point to the other commentators !
they judge and characterize these people by their appearance !
sorry ill take a gun totin, cussin cop over a pushover with a stun gun anyday !”
The perception of Kessler as either a dangerous raving lunatic versus an American hero that may have overdone it is drawn remarkably close to urban progressive versus rural or more specifically blue collar backgrounds. Mark Kessler is most definitely a blue collar, coal miner man of his community, with all that entails both positive and negative. Given that Kessler expects to be terminated from employment as police chief, he has already planned for his future. The decision will be made soon and for most of America the interest in the story will end.
Do I think he should have done what he did? No, I think that it was a miscalculation and poor judgment that didn’t help the cause he is advocating for, the policing profession or his community. That said I understood his frustration, concern and passion for the wellbeing of his community, his country and his kids futures. I also believe he said what a surprising (to some) number of Americans in and out of policing are thinking at some level.
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Juli Adcock began her career in law enforcement with the Escambia County Florida Sheriff’s Office as a patrol deputy until she was injured in a riot situation. She transferred to Judicial Security and retired in 1998. Juli pursued career advancement training with an emphasis on officer survival, interviews and interrogation. She worked with a local Rape Crisis Center and in victim’s advocacy, complementing her college course work in psychology. She currently resides in New Mexico and is an instructor with The Appleseed Project (www.appleseedinfo.org). The Appleseed Project is a rifle marksmanship clinic teaching the fundamentals of firing an accurate round downrange every 3 to 4 seconds, out to 500 yards, as well as American history. She has trained military personnel at White Sands Missile Range who are certifying as Squad Designated Marksmen. Juli instructs basic handgun skills to new gun owners in preparation for responsible personal gun ownership. She also writes for The Badge Guys (www.thebadgeguys.com). She can be reached at email@example.com or through Law Enforcement Today