Foul-mouthed Pennsylvania police chief suspended indefinitely
The gun-firing, obscenity-shouting Pennsylvania police chief whose online videos have received nearly a million views predicts that he will soon be fired from his decade-long tenure as the town’s top cop.
“Did I make some questionable videos? Sure,” Chief Mark Kessler told The Times. “But all I did was speak and express my 2nd Amendment rights. It was just me, my tiny camera … and a pile of dirt.”
Kessler was suspended by the seven-member Gilberton Borough Council earlier this month for the unauthorized firing of borough-owned automatic weapons on the YouTube videos in which he derides liberals and promotes gun rights while going off on profanity-laced rants.
One of Kessler’s most popular videos begins as an apology for his comments, but seconds later, he retracts his contrition, mouths off a string of obscenities, and sprays multiple rounds from several automatic weapons -- owned by the borough.
But the council’s official decision on Kessler’s fate is pending. Because of scheduling difficulties, a hearing could not be held and Kessler’s unpaid 30-day suspension was extended Friday, his attorney, Joseph Nahas, told the Associated Press. Nahas said the disciplinary hearing would probably be held next week.
The chief’s videos and the subsequent controversy over his employment have galvanized both sides of the gun-control debate. Advocates of 2nd Amendment rights, among others, have voiced support for Kessler.
Meanwhile, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence called for the chief’s ouster in a billboard posted on a highway near Gilberton, a borough of fewer than a thousand people about a two-hour drive north of Philadelphia.
Kessler has admitted to using “some choice words.” But his videos -- filmed in isolation, without hurting anyone -- amounted to peaceful, harmless protest, he said.
“I hurt some eardrums -- mostly mine,” Kessler said.
Keystone Progress, a statewide liberal advocacy group that has collected more than 23,000 signatures calling for the chief’s termination, said that Kessler had ties to a wider insurrection movement and that focusing only on his gun-rights advocacy or free speech issues missed the full story.
“He seems to want to take things into his own hands,” said Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress, adding that a termination could prove dangerous because some of Kessler’s supporters have called for violence as a retaliatory measure.
Kessler said he urged supporters of his cause to act responsibly. He denied any affiliation with an insurrection movement, but said he supports the nullification movement, which promotes the rights of states to invalidate federal laws.
Morrill, who said he did not attend Friday’s meeting because of safety concerns, said Gilberton residents’ opinions on Kessler ran the gamut from outright support to vocal opposition. The controversy casts doubt on the judgment of someone working as Gilberton’s principal law enforcement officer, Morrill said.
“You can’t have a police chief that intimidates at least half of the population,” Morrill said.
Kessler, a father of four and former coal miner, said that if officials decided to terminate him, he would launch a firearm safety training program. He said he’d also continue his online radio show and work through his organization, the Constitutional Security Force, which promotes militias as a means to protect the U.S. Constitution.
“I’m not the big bad guy everybody makes me out to be,” Kessler said.
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