In case you haven’t heard, Stoughton’s Police Chief, Paul Shastany is an Internet sensation, albeit briefly.
Last Wednesday, Chief Shastany provided a presentation to support a Borrowing Article request on the Town Meeting floor for funds to purchase 45 Tasers for the Stoughton Police Department. The topic had the town buzzing long before Stoughton’s Annual Town Meeting began.
However, no one could have planned for just how many people would become interested in the demonstration video that accompanied the presentation. Chief Shastany went to the Sherborn Police Department and was tased as part of a video shown to Town Meeting members. For those of you who have yet to see it, I encourage you to view it, as it is quite compelling.
More than 1,000 people have viewed the short video on YouTube and hundreds more nationwide saw it when Hollywood gossip mogul Perez Hilton posted the video on his website perezhilton.com. (Though the post apparently neglects to credit the videographer, SPD Officer John Bonney.)
Posted Monday evening, the video was taken down from perezhilton.com by Tuesday morning.
I was fortunate enough to be with the Chief shortly after he first discovered his newfound fame. With his Blackberry constantly flashing, notifying him of the numerous emails flooding his inbox, he spoke candidly about this whirlwind that ensued.
As family, friends and coworkers from all over the state were sharing with him their reactions or providing updates as to the latest amount of YouTube hits, he would express his disbelief by subtly shaking his head.
He shared an email from his 21-year-old daughter in Virginia; she informed him that Perez Hilton called him “sturdy.” The Chief laughed as he responded “that he would take that as a compliment.”
From there our discussion focused on Chief Shastany’s family for a bit. Since I met him, he has always addressed his wife, Anne-Marie and three daughters with terms of endearment. And while we have never met, I would venture to say that they are four very personable and passionate women.
“I am particularly sensitive to the effect it (his role) has on my family and friends”, Shastany said before briefly sharing his loved ones reactions of his tasing experience.
Admittedly, I found myself sympathizing a great deal, both as a wife and daughter.
The Chief said softly, “my oldest cried after watching it and my wife hasn’t seen it yet.”
I inquired as to why Anne-Marie hadn’t viewed it yet. He told me, as he has before, that, “she worries about me.” After a brief pause, he continued, “She has for 35 years. I have had my foot broken once, ribs broken, I have been spat on, you name it. But all of this wasn’t in my control.”
Shastany went on to share a conversation that he and his wife had a few years back, a conversation that was specific to tasers and the prospect of him being tased. The discussion involved Anne-Marie’s hope that he would never have to experience that and he assured her that in his position (at the time), that there was no need for him to.
After determining that a video demonstration of being tased was necessary to add to the validity of his presentation, the Chief took a giant leap of faith and did not tell Anne-Marie until the video was complete. As I questioned him as to why he chose not to tell her, Chief Shastany replied, “Sometimes asking for forgiveness is better than asking for permission.”
Quite a profound statement, though I wonder if his wife is in agreement on that one?
But humor and family sentiment aside, the Chief, who intermittently would check his blackberry for the latest speculation as to when he would be on Leno, expressed his concern about even the slightest possibility that this web craze would detract from the heart of the demonstration.
I am quite confident that, Chief Shastany did not videotape himself experiencing, what he describes as “the longest, most painful 5 seconds of (his) life” for 15 minutes of fame.
In fact, his body language conveyed just the opposite when he stated, “My intention (with the video) was to allow Town Meeting Representatives to make an informed decision.”
“With the help of Officer John Bonney, we created a presentation to support our request to borrow $67,500 to buy a piece of equipment that I believe in,” he continued.
We discussed the fact that Stoughton does not need anymore, easily sensationalized, stories about the Police Department. The Chief made some emphatic, yet poignant statements as we closed out our interview.
“I just don’t want this to turn into a circus” or worse, “I don’t want this video to become a source of exploitation of a weapon that will make it seem like a toy.”
I walked away from our half an hour meeting with feelings of admiration. Of course, I admire Chief Shastany’s dedication and resolve to the Stoughton Police Department’s integrity and reputation, but even more so I admire his family. Thirty-five years of wondering what type of scenarios your husband may be forced to endure, entire childhoods filled with pride until the awareness of mortality sets in.
So as “cool” as all this hype may be, we must remember that this is not only a dedicated police chief being stunned to the ground with two probes lodged a half inch into his back. He is a husband and father, and it is his wife and kids who will have to endure the emotional backlash that repeated images of their loved one in pain can inflict.