Police shooting of Clarksville man questioned
I am writing in response to a series of articles written in The Sun for Howard County on April 22, regarding the killing of a Clarksville man by Howard County police on April 20. This tragic and sad event struck very close to home for myself and a number of other long-time local residents who were among Randy Pratt's friends and acquaintances.
The newspaper account left Randy with a public eulogy of having been a violent, life-long petty criminal. I would like to publicly express the contrary sentiments commonly held by the dozens of mourners present at his wake and at his funeral in his family home of West Virginia.
For the most part, there is little dispute with the facts of the case as reported. On the other hand, the reports' implicit characterization of him as a career petty criminal was not right.
For those who knew him and befriended him, Randy was straightforward, proud, talented, unassuming and forever helpful. He knew how to fix anything, and he was not miserly in giving his time to help his many friends. He was an uncomplicated man who was responsible for the care of his aging parents and their home. For a man not raised to be a care-giver, he did an admirable job.
The commonly held sentiment among those who knew him best was that while he would lose his temper when provoked, he was certainly not the potential killer that brought tactical police units to his door that Saturday night. Without police action, Sunday would have dawned as peacefully as had Saturday. On that night, his actions were those of a proud, independent man who wanted mostly to be left alone to handle his own affairs. Randy was not hiding from the law. His comings and goings were frequent and well known. Any number of more peaceful ways of serving this warrant could have been employed.
0 Godspeed, Randy. Your friends will miss you.
Home schooling and 'decent education'
Regarding Mary Maushard's article on April 25, "Parent discontent fuels home schooling," I question state school board member Harry D. Shapiro's comment, "I don't have any real comfort that these children are getting a decent education."
How many home-schooled children has he observed? What statistics can he give to support his opinion? How many parents of home schoolers has he talked to?
I personally know many home-schooled children and their parents. These children excel, both academically and socially. These parents are showing great love and concern for their children. I am excited to be one who will be starting to home school my own son this year.
Education Week, a secular education magazine, published an article by Mark Weston, coordinator for the education commission for Denver. Mr. Weston writes that in a study of 16,311 home-schooled children from all 50 states, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, which is the largest standardized test in the United States, found that children schooled at home tested in the 77th percentile. Public school students tested in the 50th percentile.
What happened to childhood?
This morning, I gave my 7-year-old son an extra hug. After reading about the tragic death of Jessica Dubroff, the young pilot in Wyoming, I wondered what has happened to children being "just plain kids."
In our neighborhood, 7-year-old boys have their own agenda of milestones to meet during spring break. They will explore an old barn in the woods, even though their moms have said to stay away. They will go for the record of the longest bicycle tire skid, and retreat to their fort where "girls" are not allowed, appearing only to ask for snacks.
At home, my son will attempt to conquer level three of his "Math Blaster" CD-ROM game, play with a sea of toy cars, annoy his little sister and, if we are lucky, he will decide on a subject for his science fair project before school starts again.
There will be plenty of time for work, driving cars, planes or attaining records in whatever interests them. But for now,
carefree fun should be all that concerns them.
Anna M. Leonhardt
Cartoon seen as ridiculing seniors
The April 12 Mike Lane cartoon is one of several The Sun has selected which makes fun of Sen. Bob Dole simply because of his age. On behalf of those of us over 55, I protest. Although Senator Dole is not my candidate, I respect his abilities and effectiveness, some of which are enhanced by his age. The cartoonist depicts the aged as hairy, warty with little particles emanating from their breath. This characterization of elders as ugly misfits needs to be taken to task, and I hope you will get many letters as a result.
The media should be vigilant in correcting inaccurate stereotypes, not perpetuating them for the sake of cheap humor.
Rising crime rate in county isn't police chief's fault
The April 28 article by staff writer Ed Heard, titled "Criticism of Chief Robey rises with crime" is perhaps the most significant piece of biased, unsubstantiated and unresearched "reporting" pTC to grace your pages in a long time.
Mr. Heard places the blame for a rising crime rate, which is occurring in virtually every jurisdiction in Maryland, solely on a chief whose officers are clearing a significant percentage of violent crimes (5-year averages): murder, 87 percent; rape, 69 percent, and robbery, 37 percent.
He cites several cases, solved and unsolved, that present his biased point of view, but completely avoids mentioning those cases so important to the quality of life for Howard countians: the conviction in the Tara Gladden homicide, the arrest in the Howard County Central Library rape, the arrest in the Barbara Susan Dorman homicide and others too numerous to mention.
Had Mr. Heard been aware of the significance of and variations in crime statistics, he would have learned that police have little impact on the overall crime rate, but can have a major impact on cases closed, property recovered and services rendered.
We cannot change the social causes of crime or the economy, nor can we close every case. Chief James N. Robey is quite right in his assessment. The members of this department are proud of their organization and its overall effectiveness, as are the citizens of the county. Mr. Heard would have done well to do just a little research, perhaps exploring and citing the rave reviews of the department in the Howard County Times' opinion poll two years ago.
This police department has been in the forefront in preventing and investigating crimes, with satellite offices, bicycle patrols, a Child Advocacy Center for child abuse investigations, an Alcohol Enforcement Unit to deal with under-age drinking and now, a school liaison effort to prevent further gang activity.
Does Mr. Heard honestly believe that we can solve every case, or place an officer on every corner?
Does he believe that surrounding departments are more effective than Howard County's?
If he does, and this attack is not personal, let him do the research to prove it. If he can't or won't, maybe the editors ought to find out what's behind his vendetta against Chief Robey and the members of the police department.
Capt. Steve Drummond
The writer is commander of the Criminal Investigations Bureau of the Howard County Police Department.
Pub Date: 5/05/96