Question about "Picket Fences"

I never really watched this show much when it was on but I recently saw a rerun with a scene that fascinated me.

In this show, there was apparently a controversy in the town (the town is called Rome, IIRC) about black kids being bused in to the high school. I saw the end of the show. In this scene, the town sherriff, played by Tom Skerritt, and his deputies, one of whom is played by Lauren Holly, prepare to deny the black kids access to the school. As the buses pull up, they draw their weapons.

To their surprise, however, the army also shows up, and Tom Skerritt and the Army colonel have a bit of a confrontation. The Army colonel flatly tells him he will not back down, and Tom Skerritt backs down, and the integration of the school goes ahead peacefully.

Now, it’s my understanding that the point to this show was that the good people of Rome are all flawed, and to raise moral questions, but doesn’t this make Tom Skerritt’s character an evil bastard? I don’t mean just the integration issue; I mean, what kind of a chief of police would greet buses full of CHILDREN with his weapons drawn? What’s the idea there - “we’re gonna to shoot them nigras, yee haw!”? Even granting that he may have been ordered to oppose the decision of a federal judge, why on earth would this supposedly “Good” character ask his deputies to draw loaded shotguns on buses of schoolchildren? And why would they? I guess Milgrim was right, but still… wouldn’t one cop say “ummm, no, I don’t think I want to shoot any 14-year-old schoolgirls today, thanks.”

I know it’s fiction, but still, it struck me as being a suspension-of-disbelief-shattering scene. A chief of police who did that would be unfit to be a peace officer. The man was acting like a member of the SS.

Am I missing something here?

I used to watch PF pretty regularly - tho I vaguely recall this ep, I lack any specificity. You sure he wasn’t drawing to possibly confront the anti-bussing citizens? Or did he feel he had to oppose the bussing to prevent violence?

PF often dealt with pretty significant issues, and the characters generally were not entirely superficial in their positions. Added in was a decent degree of goofiness. Great cast too, including Roy Walston as the judge. And I always thought Skerritt’s wife was pretty hot.

Dinsdale, no, the police were there expressly to stop the kids from going to school, hence the confrontation with the Army.

I vaguely recall this episode. I’m not sure there was ever any intent to shoot the school kids–more like a generalized show of force. I presume that had the army not been there and some of the kids had started approaching the school, the police would have just blocked the entrance or, at worst, physically restrained the kids from entering, but not actually shooting them.

His daughter was hotter. It’s funny, I thought it was bad casting to have her playing a teenager, and then I found out later that she was actually within a year or so of her character’s age.

I remember an episode after the integration where the sherrif’s young son got in trouble for giving an oral presentation for some kind of black history assignment saying that we should try and help blacks because they can’t think as well because of their high sex drives and smaller brains (he used a 1909 Encyclopedia Britannica to write his report). This, of course, gets a number of people very angry at him and his family, and at one point the boy ends up urinating on a black child who confronts him.

Very surreal show, I loved it.