- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A collection of recent editorials from Oklahoma newspapers:


The Journal Record, April 27, 2015

Actions don’t match the words

Twenty-eight percent. That’s the portion of homeless youths who trade sex for basic needs - food, clothing and shelter.

They become homeless when they run away from abusive homes, age out of foster care, are turned loose from the juvenile justice system or are orphaned. All homeless youths are at high risk for becoming victims of sex trafficking and labor trafficking.

“Every person, including every child, is created in the image of God and should have an opportunity for life and success. As a community, we have a responsibility to stand up and speak out for those that cannot speak for themselves.”

Republican U.S. Sen. James Lankford said that while he was campaigning. It’s still on his website.

Lankford and Republican U.S. Sen. James Inhofe both voted last week for Senate Bill 178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which passed 99-0 in the Senate. It’s a good bill with widespread support that classifies child pornographers as traffickers, adds fines for convicted traffickers to help pay for deterrent programs, and replaces a pilot program of residential treatment centers with block grants.

On poverty, Lankford also said while campaigning that “the most effective programs are local charities, state, county and local governments.”

For 41 years, a span going back to the Nixon administration that has seen five Republican and three Democratic presidents in the White House, the U.S. government has authorized funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. That’s where nonprofit organizations such as Oklahoma City’s Be the Change get some of the money they need to help runaways and homeless youth who are already on the street. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act that Inhofe and Lankford supported helps law enforcement pursue and punish the traffickers. While it offers block grants for organizations that help homeless youths, the meat of the bill is meant to help the crime fighters.

On the same day senators unanimously passed SB 178, they rejected Senate Amendment 290, which would have reauthorized RHYA. Although it had a 56-43 majority, it needed 60 votes to pass. The Senate came up four votes short of continuing what more than four decades of their predecessors saw fit to do: Assist local organizations that are helping runaway and homeless youths.

Sadly, both of Oklahoma’s senators both voted against helping the state’s distraught youths.

Perhaps this week will provide Lankford time to reflect on the values he espoused while campaigning.


The Lawton Constitution, April 26, 2015

Saving more lake water?

While Seeding Operations and Atmospheric Research is searching the heavens for moisture-filled clouds to boost rainfall and consulting engineers are studying ideas for testing the area’s geology for unknown and untapped groundwater supplies, maybe another option should be examined, too.

Can impounded surface water be redistributed more equally to all city reservoirs?

A Lawton City Council study committee is looking for additional money to secure more water. It will be needed. However, it might be a good time to look at the management of the city lakes, especially if SOAR is wildly successful. We have had a wet spring, so anything can happen.

As most folks know, surface water for Lawton is stored in two city-owned lakes - Lawtonka and Ellsworth - north of town. Lawton also has a 70 percent ownership interest and a mortgage on one lake southeast of the city - Waurika Lake; five other communities - Duncan, Comanche, Waurika, Walters and Temple - own the balance.

As designed, Waurika water was pumped into Lake Ellsworth, and Ellsworth water was pumped into Lawtonka. Later, the plumbing was modified to pump it directly into the Medicine Park filter plant, just below the Lawtonka dam.

It’s all one-way. If it were two-way, could more water be stored?

Current lakes levels are: Lawtonka, 89 percent; Ellsworth 37 percent; and Waurika, 27.53 percent full.

If SOAR is as successful as we all hope and its program generates a deluge, Lawtonka’s remaining 11 percent could fill fast and flow over the spillway. If so, many gallons of drinking water would be lost.

Paying SOAR to increase the rainfall only to have it flow over the dam and on to the Red River would be counterproductive and expensive. We need to save water, not let it flow away.

If Lawtonka filled, would it be feasible to install temporary pumping equipment and pump water back to Ellsworth? When Ellsworth is full, then pump the floodwaters into the Waurika gravity-flow line. The idea is to move excess Lawton water from lakes north of town and store it for future use in Lake Waurika, which has ample storage capacity and of which the city owns a large share.

Perhaps some idle pumping equipment could be rented from nearby Halliburton Services to do the job, and Lawton, Duncan and the other four Waurika Lake Master Conservancy District member towns could all benefit.

We have three lakes, or three containers. Let’s find a way to fill them all.


The Oklahoman, April 27, 2015

Many benefits to police body cams, but also many challenges

The police department in Sand Springs is delighted with the way body cameras have worked for members of the force. At a news conference last week, Deputy Chief Mike Carter played a bodycam video showing a man pointing a gun at an officer and making threatening statements before being shot and killed.

“We enjoy the cameras,” Carter said. “They’ve cleared many false complaints against our officers. . This is a prime example of why we wear cameras.”

More law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma and around the country are investing in these cameras, which are clipped to a uniform or to glasses. Oklahoma City plans to do so in the near future, with a one-year trial of 100 body cameras.

This is an encouraging move but it doesn’t come without challenges that must be addressed. Part of the reason for the trial run in Oklahoma City is to figure out how best to manage the thousands of hours of recordings that the police department will compile, and also how best to comply with the state’s Open Records Act.

Efforts are underway in the Legislature to address law enforcement and prosecutors’ concerns as they pertain to public records laws. These parties have legitimate questions about such things as the amount of lag time allowed between when a video is made and when it can be released. There also are concerns about protecting officers’ privacy and administrative rights.

Processing, categorizing and archiving body camera video is another hurdle. In a recent story in The Wall Street Journal, the district attorney in Larimer County, Colorado, said his office has been inundated with footage from the 60 cameras used by the Fort Collins Police Department. “There are just huge amounts of data being generated from cameras,” DA Clifford Riedel said. “It used to be that video on a case was the exception. Now it’s the rule.”

Body camera video captured the fatal shooting early this month in Tulsa by a reserve sheriff’s deputy who grabbed his gun instead of his Taser weapon. The reserve deputy can be heard immediately saying he had made a mistake. In addition, two deputies involved in the arrest were criticized for pinning the suspect’s head to the ground and dismissing his plea that “I’m losing my breath.” The sheriff later reassigned the two, citing threats made against them.

The push for body cameras intensified after last summer’s shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. It’s estimated that 4,000 to 6,000 police departments now use them, out of 18,000 nationwide. And “the vast majority of places are still trying to figure this out,” Michael White, a criminology professor at Arizona State University, told the Journal.

In addition to concerns about open records, cost is a factor that law enforcement must consider. The cameras themselves come with a price tag of course, but so does data storage. In Los Angeles, where the mayor has said he wants to get 7,000 cameras, the Journal reported that data storage and maintenance could cost $7 million per year.

The trial run in Oklahoma City will give police here a better feel for how well body cameras will work. It’s our hope that the various challenges can be overcome, and believe they will be. The public and the police stand to benefit greatly from the added level of transparency these cameras provide.


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