Police chief defends posting anti-government YouTube videos

Mark Kessler, police chief of Gilberton, Penn., insists it's his First Amendment right to post videos showing him shooting weapons, calling opponents "libtards," and criticizing Secretary of State John Kerry.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read
A scene from Chief Kessler's apology. Chief Kessler/YouTube Screnshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I have occasionally met police chiefs in social settings.

Like all human beings, some I warm to and others make me want to speak to their parents and psychologists. None, however, has quite been like Mark Kessler. He is the police chief of Gilberton, Penn.

Though he is employed to keep the peace in the community, there's a side to him that seems a touch combustible. For he posted a YouTube video criticizing Secretary of State John Kerry for negotiating a treaty that, in Kessler's view, would violate his right to bear more arms than possessed by the Indian goddess Kali.

Some might agree that as Kessler posted the videos in his own time, not wearing a police uniform, there should be no problem. Others might point to the the fact that he identifies himself as "Chief Kessler" on YouTube and titles his movie "Chief Mark Kessler, Kerry & UN, can SUCK IT."

I fancy they might conclude that this doesn't seem quite the tone a police chief should set.

Oh and there is the fact that Kessler calls the Secretary of State "that piece of s*** traitor." (This opus does contain profanities.)

The video seems to have polarized many locals.

But in an interview with the Pottsville Republican-Herald, Kessler insists that he is simply being a good citizen.

He said: "I think the video is in support of the Constitution -- the support of the First Amendment, the right to express your thoughts and words freely without reprisal from any government."

Clearly sensitive to public criticism -- as all police chiefs naturally are -- he posted a second YouTube video (embedded below). This was one of apology.

The only slight kink I'd add to that description is that this was no apology at all. Instead, he called his critics "libtards." This was slightly after saying to them "F*** you."

Gilberton Mayor Mary Lou Hannon told the Republican-Herald that she had no problem with her police chief's colorful YouTube fame.

"Anyone asking the borough to take action against the chief, when he has committed no illegal act, no violation of policy and no misuse of borough time, is asking that we establish an official political view of the borough and impose it upon one or more of our employees, which would obviously be unconstitutional," she said.

Social media have opened extremely large doors for anyone to express anything to anyone prepared to listen.

But we live in strange times when the things people say and do publicly can rather backfire.

On the one hand, we have teens like Justin Carter who make Facebook jokes about massacres and are locked up by policemen for months to teach them a lesson.

Police chiefs, too, aren't immune from flaunting their wares in the public eye.

Earlier this year, Tom Keller, the police chief of Confluence, Penn. -- just 219 miles from Gilberton -- was suspended for a very fetching pose with a lady and a gun on Facebook.

There's something about having a certain job -- especially if you hold public office -- that exerts occasional limitations on how you're expected to behave.

For example, politicians aren't expected to send pictures of their private constituents to people they don't know.

Some commenters to the Republican-Herald laud Kessler for what they see as his affirmation of the First Amendment. One, with the handle WillamSisko, offers: "We still cling to our guns and Bibles."

Others, though, feel that there's a greater problem with what he says and does, rather than his exercise of alleged freedom of speech. A couple of commenters accuse him of arresting someone for leaving a profane answering machine message.

And someone with the handle MayorMcCheeze insists: "This guy has lost all credibility as a peace officer. Do not stop for him. Do not follow his instructions, Do not leave him enter your house. He is unstable."

One can understand the MayorMcCheeze's wariness. Real people do generally like it when police chiefs offer a vague impression of level-headedness.