- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Editorials from around Pennsylvania:

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KANE REPORT ON SANDUSKY INVESTIGATION PRODUCES NO BOMBSHELL, BUT …

Kathleen Kane ran and won her race for attorney general in part by promising to see whether Tom Corbett slow-walked the Jerry Sandusky investigation to help his winning campaign for governor.

A year and a half later, the answer to that potentially explosive question is a resounding, definitive “no.”

It was a reasonable question to ask, given public skepticism about the case, and Kane’s investigator, Geoffrey Moulton, has given it a fair answer.

His exhaustive report indicates that questionable decisions in handling of the case, not politics, explains much of why three years elapsed between Victim A.F.’s report to authorities and the criminal charges against Sandusky.

In the end, instead of producing a political bombshell, the Kane-Moulton report is a helpful exercise in “lessons learned.”

In coming to that conclusion, Moulton was mindful of how hindsight can produce 20-20 vision. He evaluated decisions based on what investigators knew then, not what we all know now.

But as the report notes, some of the investigative team’s decisions were puzzling and “difficult to defend.”

The reasons for holding off so long on searching Sandusky’s house, the report says, were hardly compelling. Executing such searches relatively early, the report notes, is a good way to produce leads to other victims.

It took five months for higher-ups to answer a simple question from the lead prosecutor: Are we going forward with a case involving just one victim or do we dig harder to find more victims? During that five months, the investigation ground to a halt.

Most mystifying of all - why didn’t investigators check sooner with police at State College and Penn State about other potential reports involving Sandusky? That step was the one that broke the case wide open. It led investigators to a troubling 1998 incident that was reported but not prosecuted and eventually revealed four more victims.

In the end, instead of producing a political bombshell, the Kane-Moulton report is a helpful exercise in “lessons learned.”

In cases like this, where a single victim emerges to accuse a “pillar of the community,” one lesson is that investigators should plan from the start to search long and hard for other victims. Child predators like Sandusky seldom limit their odious offenses to a single victim.

A key step in that process, the report says, is systematically consulting all possible jurisdictions and officials involved in protecting children from the suspected abuser.

Further, the report said, when a child sex predator case lands at the attorney general’s office, it needs to get regular and timely attention from supervisors, especially as a new attorney general takes over.

The Kane-Moulton report looked only at the attorney general’s office role in the case. It didn’t study why other authorities missed chances to catch Sandusky much earlier and prevent years of abuse against multiple victims.

As the report notes, the Sandusky prosecution eventually did put a child predator behind bars for what is almost certainly the rest of his life. And the publicity surrounding it heightened awareness of sexual abuse across the state.

That awareness should encourage more victims to come forward. And when they do, the report offers good advice to ensure that future cases of sexual abuse will be investigated promptly and thoroughly, and the perpetrators will be brought to timely justice.

- PennLive.com

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GIVE LOCAL POLICE OFFICERS THE BIG GUNS FOR SPEED ENFORCEMENT

When it comes to catching speeders and keeping our roads safe, local police officers in Pennsylvania are outgunned.

That’s because under state law they aren’t allowed to use radar guns. Instead, they must use other speed enforcement methods that are more expensive, cumbersome to set up, less effective after dark and in inclement weather and more dangerous for police officers.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the continental U.S. that prohibits local police departments from using radar guns. Pennsylvania State Police can - and do - use radar.

Motorists know that they’re less likely to get caught speeding on Pennsylvania roads policed by local departments and many of them take advantage of that fact, driving well beyond speed limits and endangering the lives of other motorists and pedestrians.

This ban doesn’t make sense. Supporters of lifting it say the reason for the ban was a concern that local police officers will use radar guns more for raising revenue than for public safety. If those concerns were valid, abuse of radar guns would be rampant in other states, prompting bans across the country. But that’s not happening.

In addition, speeding tickets aren’t a very effective way to raise revenue. Costs are high, but large portions of the money cover court costs and emergency medical service fees. If municipalities are looking for ways to raise revenue, there are easier and more effective ways to do it than sending police officers on speed enforcement missions.

This ban makes many roads in Pennsylvania less safe and it’s an insult to local police officers who are capable of using radar guns properly and responsibly.

There’s another advantage to expanding radar guns to local police departments. Pulling over speeders could also lead to catching drunken drivers, drug traffickers and users and other law breakers.

At least two bills in the Pennsylvania Legislature - Senate Bill 13040 and House Bill 1272 - would allow local police departments to use radar guns. Several local municipalities, including Wilson Borough, Palmer Township and Whitehall Township, have passed resolutions supporting the measures. Others, including Forks Township, are considering it.

Previous attempts to overturn this ban have failed, but it’s time for lawmakers to give local police departments this important public safety tool.

There’s a simple solution for drivers worried about getting caught by radar-gun happy police departments.

Slow down!

- The (Easton) Express-Times.

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AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEM IS JUST PLANE SCARY

Air traffic controllers are too sleepy, and anyone who boards a plane should be very afraid. The controllers are suffering from chronic fatigue while on the job - the task of keeping the millions of people who fly from here to there safe in the air. It remains a major threat to the safety of the flying public that the Federal Aviation Administration must address immediately.

It’s not as if the FAA had no idea that too many of its 15,000 air-traffic controllers are at risk of nodding off or sluggish thinking. Three years ago it was disclosed that there were controllers who were falling asleep in front of their screens, which forced the FAA to take a closer look at work scheduling, which has contributed to the problem.

This latest disclosure is a result of a report, mandated by Congress, from the National Research Council. One issue is the policy that allows controllers to work five eight-hour shifts over four consecutive days - the last one being a midnight shift.

Controllers love it because they get 80 hours - the equivalent of two traditional work weeks - off before they have to return to work. However, the report says that this scheduling likely results in “severely reduced cognitive performance” during the midnight shift, because of fatigue.

The schedule might be popular, but it’s a dangerous one. The FAA should sit down with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and develop scheduling that reduces fatigue on the job and increases flight safety.

To its credit, the FAA imposed a fatigue risk-management program after several controllers were caught sleeping on the job a few years ago. Cutbacks, however, have thwarted the program’s effectiveness. This is not encouraging news.

Neither is what’s roaring down the pike: The FAA is confronting a deluge of retirements. Controllers are required to retire when they turn 56. The agency will have to replace about two-thirds of this workforce - nearly 10,000 controllers - during the next 10 years.

In order to fill the ranks, the FAA has abandoned its hiring program of recruiting controllers from among military veterans who have aviation experience and from FAA-accredited colleges and universities.

It’s a controversial move that rightly raises concerns about safety. It takes years to properly train air-traffic controllers. It is imperative that the FAA make a persuasive case that replacing recruits who have a leg up in their knowledge of aviation with neophytes starting from scratch will not further imperil those who fly.

The report makes several recommendations, including that the FAA analyze accident and incident reports and voluntary reports by controllers to identify specific links between staffing and safety; involve controllers in staffing decisions; and ensure sufficient staffing as its modernization initiative proceeds.

Flying shouldn’t be a crapshoot because someone was asleep at the switch.

- Philadelphia Daily News.

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FEDERAL GAS TAX HIKE IS WORTH THE COST FOR HIGHWAY SAFTEY

A bump at the pump might be worth more than failing roads. The Highway Trust Fund, which provides most of the funding for federal transportation projects on interstate highways, is expected to run dry this September. Most of the trust fund’s revenues are from the federal gasoline tax, which has diminished substantially in value since its last increase in 1993 as a result of inflation and increasing fuel efficiency.

A bipartisan Senate bill, proposed last week, would restore the fund’s solvency by raising the tax by 12 cents over the next two years and indexing the tax with inflation. Like many good ideas from Congress, its chances of success are slim. The measure, sponsored by Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, would raise $164 billion for the fund and avoid a nightmarish scenario where existing projects would stop and badly needed new projects be suspended if the trust fund were to run out of money.

To assuage Republican senators who have signed Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, Sens. Corker and Murphy have proposed the extension of tax relief measures that they say will keep the bill revenue-neutral. It’s a concession to how dire things have become in Congress, but one that is better than other proposals to fund the highway system by eliminating Saturday postal service or offering a one-time tax “holiday” on repatriated corporate profits.

The Highway Trust Fund has required infusions of cash from the U.S. Treasury to remain afloat. Instead of stopgap measures and gimmicks, basic infrastructure spending should be covered permanently by a sensible and updated tax code. For the sake of a safe and functional federal highway system, the tax will need to rise.

-Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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