- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Editors: Please note that The Associated Press welcomes editorial contributions from members for the weekly Editorial Roundup. Three editorials are selected every week. Contributions can be made by email at [email protected]


Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Dec. 20, 2014

Body cams needed, but video should be public

Sioux Falls is among many police departments that are weighing the pros and cons of body cameras.

On the surface, it seems obvious. Eyewitness testimony can be contradictory or not available. Body cameras would help keep law enforcement and the citizens with whom the officers are dealing in check by showing what happened.

Certainly the situation in Ferguson would be better to understand if Darren Wilson had been wearing a body camera.

In Sioux Falls, police already have some cameras - a dash cam turns on when lights are activated. Another camera records the backseat for when a subject is in custody. Officers also are mic’d up.

Departments will have many questions to answer when deciding whether to use body cameras. Who will pay for it? How will the system work? Which officers will wear them? How are complaints handled? How will the extra storage needed for the videos be managed?

Unfortunately, we already know the answer to one important question: Will the video be open to the public and the media?

That answer in South Dakota will continue to be no, because state law doesn’t require it to be released.

“If we went to body cameras, I would treat that video and recordings exactly like we do right now. . As a general rule, unless it is helpful in the investigation, we have not released the recordings to the public or the media for that matter,” said police chief Doug Barthel, who is not opposed to body cameras.

South Dakota is among the worst states in the nation for open records. The media is not allowed to view mug shots unless police release them in conjunction with a search for a prisoner. Police reports aren’t viewable by the media - in Sioux Falls, they are available only indirectly through a communications officer.

Without openness, it is too easy to hide indiscretions or even illegal behavior.

The citizens of Sioux Falls are fortunate. The relationship between the police and the public is generally respectful, but there still need to be checks and balances.

The media’s role is to be a voice for the people and to make sure public officials, police and other government representatives are working for the community.

As it is now, the media has limited resources to investigate a citizen complaint against police. There might be dash camera video, but the media won’t see it unless it is released to them by a party who is involved in the incident.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a study last year showed that 245 police departments across the country used body cameras. Aberdeen is using the cameras, and Sioux Falls probably will be added to that list sometime in the next few years.

When they do, the body cameras, like the dash cams, will help police ward off unwarranted complaints. They also will serve as a voice for those in the public who have been victims of police misconduct. A study by the National Police Foundation showed a 50 percent reduction of use-of-force incidents. Complaints were reduced by almost 10 times.

Barthel and the Sioux Falls Police Department should continue to study the issue and what it will take to best implement body cameras. President Obama has offered $75 million in matching funds for body cameras nationwide - enough for 50,000.

In Sioux Falls, Barthel said officers on motorcycles probably will be getting cameras sometime in the next year, which will serve as a testing ground for more.

Barthel doesn’t want to rush it, however. Ideally, he said, the system would be compatible with the existing dash camera system the department already has in place.

“This isn’t just about the money,” he said. “I want to have a good system and truly have a need for it.”

We applaud the department for taking a measured approach to it and examining all of its options. But while a step toward body cameras will help everyone, the lack of openness in obtaining the video and other police records hinders the public’s right to a fair and due process.


Aberdeen American News, Aberdeen, Dec. 18, 2014

Tribes should be cautious of pot ruling

The U.S. Department of Justice last week adopted a new policy saying American Indian tribes can grow and sell marijuana on sovereign tribal lands, as long as those tribes follow the same federal rules laid out for states that allow recreational marijuana use and possession.

So far, tribes in this region seem hesitant to jump into the pot game.

That’s a good thing.

But with this DOJ decision come some hard decisions that will have to be made down the road.

The justice department’s new policy was unexpected, but not surprising. More and more states are legalizing marijuana for recreational use; it’s assumed that number will only grow.

Both Dakotas, for instance, are bordered by two states, Montana and Minnesota, that already allow medical marijuana.

Three of the four states that allow marijuana for recreational use - Colorado, Oregon and Washington - have tribal lands, so this will be an issue American Indian leaders will have to address.

This is not the first time South Dakota tribes have talked marijuana. In 2001, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council passed a resolution supporting the development of industrial hemp on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The council stressed the “economic necessity” of growing industrial hemp, a relative of marijuana that can be used to make rope, paper and other products, but cannot be smoked.

In 2006, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down that vote.

Caution is paramount. Just last year, Pine Ridge members voted to overturn a federal ban on selling alcohol on tribal land, creating a potential new revenue stream.

Pine Ridge residents found that many tribal members were going to liquor stores just over the border in Nebraska to get their alcohol. While the reservation has seen problems with alcohol and substance abuse, the tribe was not getting revenue or resources to combat those issues.

Legalized marijuana could offer similar opportunities and obstacles.

Without the resources to combat substance abuse, through education or medical or psychological means, marijuana legalization would just add to the layers of problems found on reservations.

Tribal lands, some already with casinos that are tourism magnets, could become pot destinations for travelers, adding to the drain on resources.

Two separate laws - one for tribal lands and one for the rest of the state - could cause confusion in South Dakota. That confusion could create the potential for more offenders and more arrests.

It is highly, highly unlikely that South Dakota will legalize recreational use and possession of marijuana anytime soon. A betting man might put the state the 49th- or 50th-most likely to make it legal.

Until that day comes, tribes in South Dakota would be wise to stay away from weed.


The Daily Republic, Mitchell, Dec. 23, 2014

Simple cartoon gives us true meaning of Christmas

And finally, the time of year has come when children glow with anticipation.

Their eyes sparkle from the reflection of the brightly lit trees and their smiles beam with happiness and joy.

Christmas is a beautiful time of year to be refreshed with youth and innocence. It’s the time of year to spend with family, build memories and start tradition.

And perhaps no other holiday classic reminds us what Christmas is all about better than “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which is airing for the 50th season this year.

The cartoon’s many messages speak to all ages who need to remember, as Charlie Brown repeatedly wonders, what Christmas is all about.

The show opens with a depressed Charlie Brown, who says he doesn’t know what’s wrong with him.

“Christmas is coming and I’m not happy,” he tells Linus. “I don’t understand Christmas.”

Charlie Brown seeks psychiatric help from Lucy, who then tells him to find involvement and invites him to be the director of a Christmas play.

After locating a weak, sad-looking Spruce tree for the play, Charlie Brown is laughed at and ridiculed by his peers for being a failure. With frustration, poor Charlie Brown can’t figure out what Christmas is all about.

Then, in a monolog, Linus tells Charlie Brown the meaning of Christmas.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

With optimism, Charlie Brown attempts to decorate his little tree, and “show them it really will work” in the play.

A failed attempt has Charlie Brown saddened again, but Linus and the rest of the Peanuts gang share the Christmas spirit. They determine the tree needs “a little love” and spruce it up.

When Charlie Brown sees the beautifully decorated tree, his smile grows, and viewers know he learned what Christmas is all about.

It’s a striking story that reminds us Christmas isn’t about all of the lights, bells and presents, but it’s about people in our lives and what they do for us. And, even 50 years after it was originally aired, the Charlie Brown Christmas story still sends a clear message this holiday is about Jesus Christ, whose birthday we celebrate on Dec. 25.

Yes, Christmas is the time of year to be refreshed with youth and innocence, and all it takes is a group of cartoon children to remind us of that.

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