There is a new trend with city and county police departments to form special squads to enforce safety laws. Historically it has been state and federal law enforcement that were the main participants in this often socially unpopular task. Most people would agree that buckling up is a good idea but resent being forced to do so and are outraged when they have to pay a court fine for not complying. Its a little like burning a candle on the nightstand while you sleep, its a dangerous activity that should be avoided but to have a safety squad break down the door to write a ticket, would be completely unacceptable to most people. Should government be in the business of protecting us from ourselves?
If you ask local law enforcement why they think it necessary to get into the safety business they will likely say that if one life is saved then the inconvenience is justified and also point out that children in vehicles need to be protected by the state. They are likely to quote impressive statistics - genuine statistics - that support their position but they won't tell you the prime driving force behind their concern for individual personal safety. Grants - that right, money. State and federal funds, which are over charged taxes redistributed locally to encourage these special squads. Regular patrol officers are empowered to write safety tickets, and occasionally they do, but their prime mission is community protection. Remember "to serve and protect." The reason communities elect a sheriff and pay to employ local police officers is that there is more control of policing policies at the local level than with a national police force. So why are these "grants" circumventing that democratically healthy practice?
Should local law enforcement employ dedicated safety police or should they concentrate on protecting the community?
What do you think?
Still on the subject of law enforcement is the recent hiring of Bob Gault as the Bradley County Sheriff's Department Public Information Officer. He was a long time director of local radio news for Brewer Broadcasting and also President of the Cleveland Media Association, taking over from George Campbell of the Cleveland Police Department. Does anything seem strange about this arrangement? Remember, the Cleveland Media Association also sponsors the televised "candidate forum" around election time. Is Cleveland Media Association a misleading title for this organization? Sure, most every local media outlet is represented, with the notable exception of this publication. But what is more important is that a large proportion of it's membership is made up of representatives for local government and quasi government organizations. Aren't the media supposed to be watching these people and reporting their activities to the public?
Have you heard the story about the two BCS deputies and two Tennessee Highway Patrol officers who accidentally locked themselves in a cell block of the almost completed justice center? For years, it has been Sheriff Dan Gilley's policy not to return calls for information from this newspaper so it was not possible to check out our story but we will tell you what we know anyway. These four officers were visiting the new jail after hours (go figure why) when somehow they became locked in. [I would have given a hundred bucks to see their faces] One of them called a buddy at the 911 Center who rushed to the rescue. To save them embarrassment he cut out a window with an oxygen torch that was on the site. They all left the scene and said nothing. When Gilley was told of the damage, he was outraged and ordered detectives to track down the culprit, not knowing two of his deputies were involved. Now back to Bob Gault. Did Gault report the cost of the damage, did anyone? Does it make you feel safer for Gilley to spend law enforcement dollars to hire Gault? My point is that when the media is in bed with the people they are supposed to be reporting on, then there is a tendency for the news to be censored. Is that a good idea?
What do you think?
Dangerous horse play
Another story that came to light this month had a much more dignified ending. A student at Cleveland High School was caught with a pocket knife during class. There was apparently some horse play and the knife was pulled which triggered the school zero tolerance directive. Most of us have read accounts of over reaction by some school administrators in other school districts, like the student who was suspended for making a pretend gun with his finger and pointing it at a classmate and the girl suspended for giving her friend an aspirin.
The Cleveland City school system seems to be more considerate and mature in it's reasoning, referring cases to a five member panel called the Disciplinary Hearing Authority comprising of school professionals. The student with the knife had a spotless record, was a good student and although he was punished was spared the devastating blow to his education that an arbitrary suspension and court appearance may have caused. Although there have been reports that not every student is treated equally and fairly in Bradley county, this case seems to have set the standard by which others should be judged. It is commendable that the Cleveland school system are able to temper the needed zero tolerance rule with wisdom and common sense.
What do you think?
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