- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Journal & Courier, Lafayette. Aug. 23, 2014

Police, detained student photographer and video

After Purdue University found a way past its objections and released surveillance footage of police officers detaining a student newspaper photographer as they investigated a Jan. 21 murder in the Electrical Engineering Building, two questions remain.

Why did Purdue sit on this video so long?

And why was this Purdue Exponent photographer held for hours once police knew who he was and what he was, rightly or wrongly, up to?

It took a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana to force Purdue’s hand. Purdue had already given the Exponent staff and lawyers a look at the footage, which shows several officers sweeping the building about 40 minutes after the shooting, before coming across student photographer Michael Takeda.

What does the video show? Probably not as much as the Exponent staff and publisher had hoped it might by bringing it into the open for public scrutiny. But certainly not enough to clear Purdue for what came next.

According to both sides, Takeda crossed into the Electrical Engineering Building from a second-floor skywalk. Police said Takeda knew the building was closed off minutes after the noon-hour stabbing and shooting in a basement classroom. The Exponent said the skyway entrance wasn’t sealed.

In the video, as police waved for him to come to them, Takeda winds up on his knees and then prone on the floor. Officers then escort him down the hallway, pushing him into a wall at one point, before taking him down the stairs.

The video has no sound, so it’s impossible to determine what officers were saying to him as they moved through the halls and whether that squares with the initial accounts offered in an internal investigation released in February. (The Purdue report concluded police acted appropriately.)

Purdue’s response filed in the ACLU case argues that the Exponent’s complaint comes down to, in many ways, the newspaper’s largely editorialized sense of lousy relations with university police.

It also disputes Exponent accounts of how long Purdue officers detained Takeda. Part of the argument: If the photographer was kept in a West Lafayette police car for more than an hour, as he claims, before being taken to the Purdue Police Department, why was no formal complaint filed with West Side? And the interrogation at the Purdue Police Department, by Takeda’s account, took five minutes of actual questions.

Maybe so. But one thing everyone seems to agree on: Takeda didn’t get his camera gear back until 3:30 p.m. that day. That’s nearly three hours after he was found by police two floors away from the crime scene.

No one expected Purdue to take these accusations lightly. And university attorneys went all-in to discredit the Exponent account, all but accusing the photographer of trespassing and writing off any police overreaction to the heat of the moment, as officers practically wrapped up the case in the first hour. The alleged shooter, Cody Cousins, was arrested within minutes and pleaded guilty last week.

Releasing the video was the right thing today, even if it doesn’t seem to be the clear-cut case Purdue wants it to be. Police might have had reason to be agitated. The fact that they found reason to hold a journalist and his equipment for so long, though, still sends a chilling message.


The Republic, Columbus. Aug. 23, 2014

Rules to keep racers in cars improve safety

Auto racing is an inherently dangerous sport, with drivers maneuvering cars and trucks through traffic around tracks at high speeds. Because of the risk of accidents and injuries, improving the safety of drivers is important.

That can be accomplished, at least in part, through technology and rules.

After Dale Earnhardt died during a head-on crash into a wall during the 2001 Daytona 500, NASCAR required its drivers to wear a head-and-neck restraint system to prevent basilar skull fractures - the cause of Earnhardt’s death.

More safety steps soon followed elsewhere in the auto racing world.

A soft wall, known as the Steal and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) Barrier, was installed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2002. The technology reduces the impact of crashes into walls, thus reducing the chances of serious injuries.

Now, some tracks and sanctioning bodies are mandating that drivers not leave their cars after accidents, unless the car is on fire or liquid is leaking.

This rule is in response to the Aug. 9 fatal accident at Canandaigua (New York) Motorsports Park, where Columbus native and three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart struck and killed 20-year-old racer Kevin Ward Jr. during a sprint-car race on a dirt track.

After his car was knocked out of commission, Ward exited it and walked down the track through oncoming traffic during a caution period to apparently confront Stewart. The right rear tire from Stewart’s car hit Ward, who died of blunt force trauma.

That is a tragedy.

If there’s any good that could possibly come from this, it would be that driver safety improves as more tracks implement rules that restrict drivers from exiting their cars after an accident.

Twin Cities Raceway Park in North Vernon has had this rule for several years, and the restriction already exists in the IndyCar series.

Within days of the incident that claimed Ward’s life, two tracks in New York added rules banning drivers from leaving their cars. NASCAR followed suit and implemented such a rule before the Aug. 17 Sprint Cup race in Brooklyn, Michigan.

These are smart decisions, which all auto-racing tracks and sanctioning bodies should institute. Too much is at stake not to: human lives.


South Bend Tribune. Aug. 21, 2014

Bullying measure shouldn’t be taken lightly

It’s clear that bullying in schools so concerned the Indiana General Assembly that lawmakers passed a measure requiring schools statewide to track cases.

Those statistics then would determine what resources would be provided to schools to address the issue.

But the bullying report released recently by the state shows a significant variance in numbers from school to school.

That raises concerns that schools aren’t being consistent or, even worse, aren’t taking seriously the need to track incidents and file such reports.

For instance, Penn High School, the area’s largest with 3,300 students, reported one incident of bullying last year while New Prairie High School — with fewer than 1,000 students — reported 23. Mishawaka High School, which has about half the enrollment of Penn High School, reported 37 incidents of bullying last school year.

Something in those numbers just doesn’t ring true to us.

South Bend didn’t even meet the initial deadline and so was not included in the report. South Bend’s numbers since have been received by the state.

The law defines bullying in detail and requires schools to report all substantiated acts of bullying using categories such as “verbal,” ”physical” and “electronic.”

Once considered almost a rite of passage among students, bullying is now being treated as it should be — a serious problem that can have a real impact on victims.

There will be some adjustments for schools and we understand that may take some time. Teachers will have to closely monitor behavior and file reports when needed.

But as we’ve learned through past incidents, bullying can damage the lives of young people. It needs to be taken seriously by schools and acted upon swiftly.


Tribune-Star, Terre Haute. Aug. 20, 2014

Youth and e-cigarettes

Technology, it seems, finds solutions for just about everything. So it should surprise no one that the tobacco industry, under siege for years for marketing and selling unhealthy products, found a way around the anti-smoking fervor through a smokeless nicotine delivery system.

They’re called electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes. And while they may not be as dangerous as cigarettes (studies are still exploring that issue), most early research indicates they are still harmful and highly addictive.

Adults will be left to make their own decisions about the product when credible information is compiled. But it is the potential impact on youths that alarms us. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working on that and has proposed rules to regulate the product.

But there are public officials across America, including Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who believe the FDA’s approach is not aggressive enough when it comes to young people and e-cigarettes. We think those officials are right and support their drive to convince the agency to step up its efforts to regulate marketing of the products to protect minors.

Zoeller has a unique position in this debate. He is Indiana’s top consumer protection official and, according to his department’s website, serves as the National Association of Attorneys General Tobacco Committee co-chair. In June of this year, Zoeller was appointed to the board of directors of the American Legacy Foundation, a national public health organization dedicated to ending tobacco use in the United States.

In conjunction with attorneys general from 28 other states, including Illinois, Zoeller is urging the FDA to step up the fight.

“Sadly there is a long history of companies manufacturing and selling tobacco using shrewd marketing techniques designed to push their disease-causing products onto children by getting kids hooked on addictive nicotine. Now technology has devised a new nicotine-delivery device creating health risks not fully researched. State attorneys general were at the forefront of pushing back at the deceptive marketing of harmful tobacco products, and we now ask the FDA to step up and restrict these new devices as it does other tobacco products,” Zoeller said.

Among the group’s proposals are to prohibit “flavors” in new tobacco products and to restrict marketing of e-cigarettes in the same manner as for cigarettes. It also advocates strong health warnings.

We applaud Zoeller and his colleagues across the country for providing leadership on this public health issue. We hope the FDA is listening.

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