Open Letter to the Mt. Lebanon Commissioners and Police Department,

Imagine a good man of 66 years with a friendly disposition and a smile for everyone - a small, gentle man with outsized heart, passion and soul. Now picture a bully taunting him and his family with bizarre requests, profanity and insults, deliberately setting in motion a foolishly dangerous confrontation. And finally, imagine what happens when this bully is a police officer.

I am writing in response to a deeply disturbing incident within our community. On the evening of July 21, 2005 at approximately 9:00 PM an indelible stain was placed on the fine reputation of the Mt Lebanon community. In an ugly act of retribution, discrimination and brutality that involved metal barbs, wires, 50,000 volts of electricity blasted into the chest of an unarmed man - in an act that involved supposedly well trained, well paid police officers, a simple traffic stop that shouldn't have occurred in the first place escalated into a classic case of how a policeman should not do his job. This is not a community that needs thuggish tactics or hair-trigger, pushing-the-envelope police strategies. This is not Beruit, Lebanon. This is Mount Lebanon - Mount Lebanon, USA.

Upon reading details reported in the newspaper and talking to the victimís family, my first reaction was to march to OUR Municipal Building and register my outrage. But then I began to think. When angry, I sometimes raise my voice and shake my fist. What would the police do if they saw this? After all, I am much taller than 5'5" and much younger than 66 years. Would I be stun-gunned? Or worse?

I don't know police procedures and I haven't seen the video tape that supposedly justifies the level of force used. But I know common sense. And I know that 2 big police officers with the level of training that we pay a lot of tax money for don't need to use a taser on a small, unarmed 66 year old man. Good people, it's time to remember who you work for. If you believe the level of force used in this case was justified based on procedures, then it's time to change those procedures. It's time to use a little common sense, take a step back and reflect on how utterly ugly and absurd this incident was.

If I donít seem very angry then let me apologize for I need you to know that I am very, very angry. I am a 15 year resident of Mt Lebanon. I have known the victim and his family for over 5 years. Mr. Caruso is a gentle man with passionate beliefs. And yes, his passion may lead him to raise his voice and shake his fist and get in your face if he thinks you are wrong. Yet he is as good and kind a man as any of us ever could wish to have as a father, brother, son, friend or neighbor. I have witnessed him and his son feeding "customers" who were hungry but could not pay; I have witnessed him and his son giving sound, fatherly advice to latch-key kids who desperately, desperately needed the guidance of a man; this is a good person who has quietly and in his own way given this community more than most of us knows. He does not deserve to be addressed with profanity and with the racially charged epithet "you people". Nor does he deserve to be treated like the enemy. He is not the enemy. He is one of the many, many good people of Mt. Lebanon. And if he can be brutalized in this way, what then for the rest of us?

People intuitively know that there is a price to pay for speaking out as I am doing here. There is the subtle fear that the police may seek revenge with aggressive traffic stops, or worse. Or that the township bureaucracy might somehow seek retribution. But there comes a time when a man or a woman needs to take a stand and speak plainly against the mindless machinery of brutality and injustice - regardless of the cost.

For me, now is such a time.


Rob Whitfield 104 Lancaster Avenue