Arrest or Embrace?
Politicians Unsure How To Deal With Batman
Since Batman emerged out of the darkness in the grim, crime-ridden Gotham night, he has become a lightning rod for controversy. Is he another symptom of the lawless anarchy into which some say Gotham City has descended? Or is he a cause for hope, a sign that average citizens may be taking a first step to fighting back against a crime wave that continues to worsen?
The Gotham Police Department reports that "the individual some are calling The Batman", as he is known on official documents, has made 23 appearances at crime scenes in Gotham. Batman has stopped a bank robbery in progress, rescued hostages during the "Post Office bombing", made several "snatch and grab" missions against reported organized crime leaders, and prevented several street muggings and shake-down attempts.
Through it all, though, Gotham politicians seem uncertain how to react to Batman. While most fear a wave of vigilantism, others argue that Batman is effectively fighting crime and providing hope to a wounded city. These conflicting attitudes are hobbling City Hall's attempts to agree on a single policy with regards to Batman.
With City Hall so split on Batman, the public's more positive attitude towards Batman seems to be holding sway. Just this week, an attempt to issue an arrest warrant for Batman seems to have been put on hold after running into steep public opposition and internal disapproval.
Circles close to the acting District Attorney Roger Garcetti had been drawing up papers and devising a strategy to see Batman prosecuted on an array of charges. These charges included illegal use of force, kidnapping, impersonating a law enforcement official, criminal endangerment, being a public nuisance, and damage to public property.
However, when word seeped out that Batman was in legal jeopardy, an outpouring of support flooded into City Hall.
Phone operator Millicent Snarp said she's never received so many angry callers demanding to talk to the mayor. "It was non-stop citizen calls for about three days, and it's continuing. I didn't receive one call in support of jailing Batman," she said.
But regardless of what the public thinks was going on, DA Garcetti denied that he had pushed for Batman's arrest. "Batman is nothing more than a dangerous vigilante, but right now we have bigger fish to fry." Garcetti refused to rule out arresting Batman in the future. "How could I rule out enforcing the law?" Garcetti said.
Inside sources told The Times that Garcetti and Mayor Anthony Garcia are no friend to the masked man who has won the hearts of many in crime-ravaged Gotham. Opposing them are many of their aides and political consultants, who warn of grave public damage to their image if they go after the popular Batman.
Jamie Stearne, a political consultant in Gotham who is not advising either man, said it might be "political suicide" to take on Batman right now.
"Look, going after Batman in this town, at this moment, when crime is soaring and people think Batman is the only one fighting the criminals, is just not very smart," Stearne said. "The public is beginning to see Batman as their protector, almost a father figure, and they will not look too kindly on attempts politicians make to arrest him."
The latest Times poll, taken November 16-18, shows that 69% of Gothamites believe that Batman is a force for good in the city.
"You don't get to be politically successful by going against 69% of your voters. If I were Batman, I'd feel pretty safe about not going to jail, at least not right now," Stearne said.