- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:


April 26

The Post and Courier on ending ticket quotas for traffic tickets:

Ticket quotas should have no place in police departments. They set arbitrary requirements for officers, and signal the public that police are out to get them.

An S.C. House bill introduced by Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, would stop the unpopular practice - and would protect whistle-blowers who file complaints against agencies where quotas are required.

The problem is that, even if Rep. Bamberg’s bill becomes law, some police departments have unwritten rules about quotas: Officers are expected to give out three citations - or four, or 10 - during each shift. And if they don’t, their superior officers take note.

So even in some departments where there are no formal quotas and no officer is written up for failing to write enough citations, officers are pressured to do just that - write citations.

In some cases, those citations are believed to be one way to deter crime. Stop people for little crimes before they move on to big ones.

In some cases, tickets are an important source of income for the department - especially in small towns. One carefully placed speed trap can go a long way to filling funding gaps.

But clearly officers should be stopping drivers because they have done something wrong, not for profit. And by setting a minimum number of citations, police can feel pressured to make stops that they don’t think are necessary.

Lawyers for former North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager have said he was trying to fulfill his department-mandated quota of three traffic stops every shift for minor violations when he pulled over Walter Scott last year. Mr. Scott fled, and Mr. Slager shot him in the back, killing him. He was dismissed from the NCPD and charged with murder.

Fortunately, Rep. Bamberg believes that his bill has broad support. It won the support of the House Judiciary Committee. Both chambers of the General Assembly at large should pass the bill, and Gov. Nikki Haley should sign it. That would send a signal to the public that the police are pulling them over for the right reasons, not to fill money-raising quotas.

Then police departments should pledge to their constituents that they will abide by the spirit of the new law.

And if an officer is pressured by unwritten quotas, he should file a complaint and do his part to stop a misguided tactic that undermines respect for law enforcement.




April 24

The Greenville News on legal battle between two state officials:

At the very least, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and Special Prosecutor David Pascoe have done state residents a disservice by injecting politics into a role that is supposed to transcend it. At worst, Wilson has sullied the entire concept of the special prosecutor by his attempts to fire Pascoe who he himself appointed.

Wilson and Pascoe are in the midst of a legal battle over whether a special prosecutor can take a case to the state grand jury without involvement of the attorney general who appointed him, and whether the attorney general has the right to fire a special prosecutor.

They are questions that ultimately will be answered by the Supreme Court, but ones that undergird the credibility of both offices and could have longstanding consequences in the state. They also will have a profound effect on an ongoing Statehouse corruption inquiry that began with the investigation of former House Speaker Bobby Harrell. That probe needs to be completed to give state residents peace of mind that lawmakers are acting in residents’ best interests and not their own.

Finally, and not inconsequentially, the fight is yet another ugly chapter in the long-running and sordid saga that is South Carolina politics.

Wilson announced Pascoe’s firing on March 28, citing “multiple media leaks” and an “obvious abuse of power” that made the decision necessary.

In a news conference on March 30, Wilson ripped Pascoe for attempting to take a Statehouse corruption case to a grand jury on his own. Several times in the news conference Wilson called Pascoe tainted. He further said Pascoe was secretive and uninformed about grand jury procedures.

In court filings, Pascoe has countered that Wilson had recused himself from the investigation and he has no standing to fire Pascoe from his role as special prosecutor. “Upon designation by the attorney general, Solicitor Pascoe was vested with the authority of that office for the purpose of matters referred to him,” the filings said. “This leaves no role for the attorney general in this matter.”

On its face, the very nature of the special prosecutor would seem to suggest that, barring undeniable evidence of wrongdoing or failure to carry out his duties, he should be above dismissal. If not, what would prevent an attorney general from firing a special prosecutor whose investigation was getting too close to the attorney general or one of his associates? The very purpose of the special prosecutor’s role is to remove politics from an investigation; and this very public spat is soaked with political overtones.

To be clear, there is no known evidence in the investigation that Wilson has done anything wrong. However, just by dismissing Pascoe - or trying to - Wilson has called into question this entire probe.

The battle between Wilson and Pascoe began after Pascoe tried to use the grand jury to investigate evidence SLED had gathered against lawmakers, according to a report in Charleston’s Post and Courier. The Legislature is controlled by Republicans. Wilson is a Republican. Pascoe is a Democrat.

Wilson said Pascoe’s filings are full of “half-truths, misinformation and at least one outright lie.” He also said Pascoe did not have the power to initiate a grand jury probe and that, as attorney general, Wilson retained that power.

These are difficult and complex assertions to sort out.

The attorney general is responsible for ensuring investigations are conducted without prejudice and in a fair, even-handed and accurate way. A tool to do that is to remove his office from an investigation by appointing a special prosecutor. It would seem, then, that an attorney general has the duty to appoint a special prosecutor who is up to the task and then take his hands off the investigation.

When Wilson appointed Pascoe he praised Pascoe for his “credibility, professionalism and integrity,” according to a report in The News. At his March news conference, though, Wilson said those comments were not an honest evaluation of Pascoe’s skills, but were meant to “set him up for success.”

How quickly those assessments of Pascoe’s talent changed.

Wilson said, “He was all that we had at the time. We decided to move forward in order to survive.”

Ultimately, the courts will have to sort his out. But this much is clear: citizens need to have faith that when a special prosecutor is appointed he is qualified, trustworthy and will be able to follow an investigation wherever it leads.

Even giving Wilson all benefit of the doubt in this case - which both sides deserve - the attorney general and this entire dispute have undermined the office of the special prosecutor in general, and this corruption investigation in particular.




April 27

The Sun News of Myrtle Beach on sea turtle nesting season:

One evening last June, Linda Mataya, co-leader of the North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol, responded to a report of a nesting turtle being disturbed and she went to an unincorporated area south of the city near Apache Pier. Horry County Police Department officers had already arrived and were protecting the turtle.

The officers had warned away, but did not arrest, people who were tormenting the turtle. Mataya shares the story to illustrate “it’s taking a village to protect these sea turtles.” She cannot say enough about how law enforcement agencies, including those of Horry County, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, are a vital part in protecting sea turtles all along the S.C. coast.

The turtle nesting near Apache Pier returned to the ocean after laying 103 eggs. The nest was relocated and 52 days later, 63 hatchlings emerged. Not to worry about moving the nest; loggerheads do not return to their nests. In 2015, according to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, sea turtles made 5,095 nests on S.C. beaches. Only five of those nests were made by other than loggerheads.

Patrols begin May 1 in North Myrtle Beach and Waties Island. The Waties patrol is led by Karen Fuss, graduate student services coordinator in the School of Coastal and Marine Systems Science at Coastal Carolina University. Students and faculty members conduct research on the CCU part of Waties, a two-and-a-half mile long barrier island. About 50 sea turtle volunteers patrol the entire island. At a recent training session, Fuss recognized many familiar faces among the volunteers. “This is our 10th year,” Fuss says.

The North Myrtle Beach patrol covers nine miles of beach in the city plus two miles in Briarcliffe Acres. In 2015, turtles made 17 nests in the area, nine in the two miles of Briarcliffe beach. The nine miles of North Myrtle Beach are in four sections, each a little over two miles. Typically, four volunteers walk each section starting at sunrise, every day. On Section B, from Main Street to Sea Mountain Highway, the same group (7 volunteers) ” has been doing that every Friday morning since 2010,” when the patrol started.

Mataya and co-leader Rob Kayton have approximately 110 volunteers. Some walk more than once a week, perhaps as substitutes for the regular walkers. “We don’t turn down anybody who has an interest and can make a commitment for the summer.” On her Facebook, Mataya has almost 4,500 followers. “We still get contacts from all over … Ohio, Michigan, and once in a while comments in a foreign language.” The latter usually are from South America or Germany. She uses an application to translate the comments. “It has just taken off,” she says of the widespread interest in sea turtles.

The city of Myrtle Beach does not have a patrol and nests are reported to Ann Malys-Wilson, ranger at Myrtle Beach State Park. Nests from Myrtle Beach are relocated to the park. Malys-Wilson has led the park’s sea turtle patrol for many years. That patrol will begin the second week of May. On May 7, the park is again offering several programs related to sea turtles. There is no cost other than admission to the park. “Totally Turtles” is up on the park’s webpage at www.myrtlebeachsp.com



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