Feb. 22, 2016 11:27 AM

“I’m Capt. Clay Higgins asking every patriot to stand up and share this video and send a clear message to the world: We’d rather die on our feet than live on our knees!”

Capt. Clay Higgins burst upon the local TV scene more than a year ago, from the outset something of a Rorschach test for viewers. For some the St. Landry Parish Crime Stoppers spokesman was a milder Trump figure before there was a Trump, cutting through the usual same ole-same ole of local TV news, a vivid law enforcement character in the John Wayne mold out to round up an assortment of local bad guys and couillons on the loose. For others he was full-blown comedic entertainment, closer to a stiff Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Vacation movies, or a cartoonish Canadian Mountie Dudley Do-Right of Bullwinkle fame. For some viewers it was hard to determine. Was he for real? Does he really act like this around the office? On the golf course?

Over the past several days viewers locally and now virally — literally millions more — are getting introduced to a Capt. Higgins 2.0. Not the Chevy Chase or the cartoon Mountie version. Not even The Duke or a tough cop Clint Eastwood. More like Stanley Kubrick’s Gunnery Sgt. Hartman (performed brilliantly by R. Lee Ermey) in Kubrick’s deeply disturbing movie, Full Metal Jacket.

Decked out in SWAT gear and automatic weapons in a recent video is a new neck-vein popping Higgins out to take down an Acadiana area street gang, The Gremlins.

Given the phalanx of dozens of local law enforcement and citizens backing him in his most recent video, it’d be easy for the casual viewer to conclude the neighborhood had been overrun by hundreds of L.A.’s Crips or Bloods, but that’s not the case. He’s after seven young local gang characters with varying degrees of criminal pasts, including violent crime. Bad dudes, yes. The Crips, not exactly. It’s hard to say yet what’s evolving here with Capt. Higgins. Whatever it is, it’s likely more than a juiced Crime Stoppers.

Capt. Clay Higgins, the spokesman for St. Landry Parish Crimestoppers, donned SWAT gear and automatic weapons in his recent video.

Effective law enforcement comprises much more than rattling an arsenal of automatic weapons and extreme tough talk — and police overreaction. We know this from the measured, professionally respected policies of soon-retired Sheriff Mike Neustrom. We also know it from the advent of the camera function on cell phones — and the stunning level of cop-on-suspect violence revealed by citizen videos. Capt. Higgins and his many admirers would do well to keep this in mind.

So, yes, taking down the Gremlins should be a high priority for area law enforcement. But doing so within the limits of best-practice law enforcement methods should be too.

Last thought — or a question: Which comes first, a Capt. Higgins run for governor or a reality TV show? After all, Duck Dynasty is on its last legs.

Steve May is co-publisher of The Independent.

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