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Look up in the cloud-covered sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's ... it's sure as heck not Superman.
But in Seattle, it might just be Phoenix Jones the Guardian of Seattle. Phoenix is one of a group of self-anointed Seattle superheroes who are assisting police in their crime-fighting efforts. Phoenix and fellow crime fighters Buster Doe, Green Reaper, Gemini, No Name, Catastrophe, Thunder 88, and Penelope go forth armed with tasers, pepper spray and a code to live by:
To help fight crime in the streets of the Emerald City.
The superheroes are actually committed to fighting crime, according to a recent report by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Sadly, they are also so committed to the idea of the superhero identity, that one kind of gets in the way of the other. Example: the masks and capes so essential for superhero work convinced one eyewitness that the group pulling up at an area gas station (to fill up the Batmobile?) was there to rob it, not protect it.
Another prime example reported by the Seattle P-I:
A few of the crime-fighters were found by police confronting a man who was making threats and swinging a golf club. Police confiscated the "weapon" but were disappointed to find that the caped crusaders were not willing to give evidence against the evil-doer. That would have entailed giving up their actual, real world identities and as anyone knows, that goes against the whole idea of being a masked crime-fighter.
In the clash between actually being of assistance to the justice system and keeping the fantasy alive, they picked the fantasy.
Do police feel the Seattle Superheroes are a help or a hindrance? A lifeline or a liability? "There's nothing wrong with citizens getting involved with the criminal justice process -- as long as they follow it all the way through," police department spokesman Jeff Kappel told the Seattle P-I, adding they would like people to call 911 and be good witnesses, even if a case goes to court.
The legal liability a superhero faces when fighting crime also cannot be ignored. What if a hero mistakes an ordinary citizen for a criminal, such as someone breaking into their own car because they locked the keys inside? Suddenly "BAM! POW!" he hits that ordinary citizen over the head. Quick as you can say Holy Civil Liability Batman! the superhero will be staring down the barrel of a civil suit and possibly criminal assault charges.
So what should we make of the valiant vigilantes who are actually trying to live by a noble code? Thanks, but no thanks for the help? Or just be the eyes and ears of those officers who went through the physical, mental and legal training?
Or, as Toby Keith put it, should we say round up the posse, because "Justice is the one thing you should always find/You got to saddle up your boys/You got to draw a hard line."