On the afternoon of December 28th, my group of friends met up in Jim Thorpe over a friend's house. Being in our second year of college and attending colleges in different states, we thought we should have a nice get together over the winter break. We're all graduates of Marian Catholic High School, whose feeder schools encompass a large area spanning multiple counties, so this was one of the few times we all got together recently in one place.
Early in the afternoon, after spending a few hours indoors, we decided to walk up to the Jim Thorpe Memorial Park and throw a football around. After doing this for a few minutes, we elected to go on the merry-go-round and play on the obstacle course. The obstacle course appeared to have been built for older children and even adults since it was physically challenging even for us. Hoping to memorialize this reunion, we tried taking group pictures in different areas and on different instillations in the park.
After our second picture a police officer in his patrol car drove from the police station, mere yards away, through the park on the little pedestrian path and stopped in front of us. He got out of his patrol car and said to us, "If you kids want to act like (expletive), you can just get out."
His approaching us took us by surprise, since his language and attitude towards us wasn't what we had anticipated coming from an officer of the law, nor did we think we were doing anything that could be construed as (expletive) by any liberal interpretation of the word. We were being respectful, were not abusing the equipment in any way, nor were we being unruly or disruptive. One of us, a member in the United States Marine Corps, simply replied, "okay," and we started walking away dejected. We did not want to create an incident between us and this visibly aggressive and confrontational officer, so we turned and began to leave the park. He continued to berate us, saying that the park was no place for 16 year old kids to mess around and he didn't want us there. He waited until we left the park, then turned around and drove back to the police station.
Why does the town of Jim Thorpe, a town that attempts to market itself as a friendly cove in the foothills of the Poconos which is rich in history and a vibrant tourist attraction, have an officer like this serving on their police force? The website of the Jim Thorpe touts itself as "One of the USA's Top 50 Places to Live and Play," although this officer's attitude to the eight of us makes one second-guess this moniker. I am appalled that an officer of the law would drive 30 yards from the police station through the park, then get out and verbally berate some park-goers at 2 p.m., call them names and ask that they leave.
In the scheme of things, I'll admit that this is something that is incredibly minute and insignificant, but it was enough to get all of us upset and put a damper on the day that we all reunited and hung out. The actions of this officer were inappropriate and unprofessional and do not shine a good light on Jim Thorpe and its police force. Hopefully they can take some care in educating their officers in basic manners and civility. Should there have actually been an incident worth responding to in the park, this officer was nowhere close to being able to reasonably and rationally deal with it.
One thing is for sure, next time we have a get together it won't be anywhere near Jim Thorpe.