Much has been written and said about the whole “Trained Killers” fiasco stemming from apparent comments the Lexington City Police Chief made to a Washington and Lee journalism class. Those comments were quoted in an article published in The Ring-tum Phi — a student newspaper published by the journalism department. As a proud alumnus of both schools and as someone with deep ties to the community, I feel compelled to offer my own private views on this matter. (For background see Police Chief raises concern about VMI, W&L relations.)
1. It would be a fair statement that many within the VMI Community are deeply offended by many of the words attributed to the Chief in the article in question. Whether taken out of context or not, the words cast VMI Cadets … and by extension … the entire VMI community in a less than flattering light. Words like “trained killers” and the insinuation that VMI Cadets are not “normal” students are facially offensive.
2. Rather than attempting to claim comments were taken out of context and attacking the professionalism of a W&L journalism student, it would be helpful to itemize which statements are true and which are false. But I am very mindful that the W&L journalism department has a long, proud tradition. It was the first journalism department in the South. It was created under RE Lee’s guidance. And, it has produced some of the finest journalists in the history of this country. We must not forget that the student journalist also lives under the Washington and Lee Honor Code — one of the strongest in the country. I’ve lived under both. The sanction for violating either is permanent dismissal. Impugning the integrity of the student journalist is beyond the pale and should not be condoned.
3. There could never be a good context for the term “trained killers” as applied to VMI Cadets. First, the comment is absurd. Second, they aren’t trained killers. Third, the term is also offensive to veterans (and, I’ve spoken with many about that term).
4. I’ve lived in Lexington off and on since 1983. From my vantage point, the relations between VMI and W&L are at an all-time high. Generally speaking, students and cadets are well behaved in public — whether together or separate. These kids reflect well on our community and I know that they are valued and cherished by all.
5. Sometimes a simple apology cures all. I have no doubt that the Chief is a good man and a fine law enforcement officer. But a simple apology to the community is in order — especially when so many are offended. This type of gesture would build his stature — not weaken it.
Roger Jarrell is a native of Lexington and attended school there, graduating from Virginia Military Institute as a member of the Class of 1991, and earned his J.D. from Washington and Lee University. He has been involved in politics on and off since the 1980s and currently serves as chairman of the Rockbridge Area Republican Committee. Roger often accompanies his son, Trey, as he races super late model cars with Mark Reedy Racing.