- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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Aug. 28

The Advocate-Messenger of Danville on the “war on drugs:”

Something that has been ignored for too long in the “war on drugs” is why people use drugs. The U.S. has invested massive efforts to punish people for using drugs since the “war” first began in the 70s. But nowhere near enough has been invested in helping people who use drugs. The result is way too many people in jail and much too little understanding of why they are there.

Fortunately, there are some local efforts to reverse this trend.

If you talk to Toni Ward, whom we profiled in our weekly People feature earlier this month, she can tell you how she is trying to provide community supports for people who have never known support before. There are many people out there who want to stop using drugs, but they lack the positive influences in their lives that can keep them accountable when they’re doing well and help them back up when they fail. Ward’s group, FIGHT, is trying to provide those badly needed positive influences.

If you talk to the Boyle County Health Department, or members of the Boyle County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy, or many local elected officials, they can tell you about ongoing discussions about bringing a syringe exchange program to Boyle County.

Like FIGHT, supporters of a syringe exchange hope to provide positive support to drug users. The program could reduce public health risks and costs from dirty syringes and give users a non-judgmental pathway to rehabilitation.

If you talk to Boyle County officials, they can tell you about their plans for a post-incarceration rehabilitation program for prisoners with drug issues that finish serving their time. The program, which would operate out of the old Red Cross building in Danville, would allow rehabilitation efforts that began in jail to continue once prisoners are released. It would help them be more likely to find stability and employment on the outside, and therefore less likely to return to drugs and then prison.

What all these different efforts boil down to is recognizing that drug users aren’t some “other” class of morally bankrupt people who deserve punishment, as many have too often thought of them. Drug users are just like the rest of us but they’re in need of help.

Americans have for many years said they want safer, happier, drug-free communities. But they’ve also believed that dream is achievable by locking up or running out of town all the people involved with drugs. That plan is expensive, unobtainable and ignores reality.

You can’t heal your community by excommunicating chunks of it anymore than you can cure a broken leg by cutting it off.

With every drug user that gets punished but finds no rehabilitation, we are adding one person to the number of people who are dependent on society and removing one person from the number of people who are able to contribute.

Imagine if over the past four decades, the money and efforts we spent on police and prisons for the war on drugs instead went to better education for kids, early interventions for young drug users, public health programs for adult users and rehabilitation programs - such as the nearby Isaiah House in Willisburg.

Imagine if we had been asking “why do people use drugs?” instead of stating that “people who use drugs are bad.”

Imagine what our community would look like if we had years and years’ worth of former drugs addicts now contributing and helping improve their neighborhoods - if, instead of the depressing attrition of punishment, we had the steady accrual of recovery.

There are many who have begun to work toward this hopeful, alternate future. If enough join the cause and support their efforts, we are hopeful it will not take another four decades to undo the damage done.

Online: https://www.centralkynews.com/

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Aug. 30

The Lexington Herald-Leader on UofL’s leadership:

By any measure, governance at the University of Louisville is a mess right now:

? There are two boards, the “old” board and the one appointed by Gov. Matt Bevin when he abolished the first one. Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd has enjoined Bevin’s board from meeting but Bevin is challenging the injunction.

? Thanks to Bevin’s actions, the agency that accredits universities in this region has stated that the governor’s meddling may have damaged the university’s independence and with it its accreditation. Losing accreditation would significantly diminish the value of any degrees issued by U of L and hamstring grant applications.

? The authority of any or either board of trustees is compromised by the U of L Foundation, a fund-raising behemoth that has been supplementing pay of the president and several of his staff members without the approval, and sometimes without the knowledge, of the board.

? Making the relationship between the university and the foundation even murkier, James Ramsey, who resigned as president in July following a series of scandals and amid growing conflict, remains president of the foundation.

As Larry Benz, president of the “old” board of trustees pointed out last week, Ramsey’s continuing presence at the foundation will make it very, very difficult to recruit and hire a first-rank candidate to replace him as president of the university.

Kentucky needs the University of Louisville, an institution that made huge strides during Ramsey’s 14 years at the helm.

But Ramsey has resigned and if he wants to honor the institution that he’s served, and benefited from (at almost $1.7 million, his 2014 pay was one of the highest in the nation) he must step down from any role at the foundation. No good will come from his continuing as a sort of shadow president from a perch at the foundation.

Bevin, likewise, must accept that U of L will be better served if he stops trying to micromanage the university’s business, drops his challenge to Shepherd’s ruling and fills the three positions open on the “old” board. That would go a long way to removing the accreditation cloud and reaffirm which board has the right and obligation to make decisions going forward.

And that board must assert its sole authority to oversee U of L and determine compensation for its employees. The foundation has been making significant payments to the president and his staff, among other questionable activities, without the board’s knowledge or approval. Just as an extra president lurking in the wings would damage the institution, so does an unaccountable foundation with a big checkbook.

Online: https://www.kentucky.com/

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Aug. 31

The Bowling Green Daily News on police body cameras:

Body cameras have been effective tools in helping police officers perform their duties and in documenting officers’ interactions with the public.

The body cameras can be used in many different scenarios. One of the main things they do is tell the truth. If an altercation or other incident occurs and a person makes an accusation against an officer, the footage from the body camera will help police officials - and possibly the courts - determine what really happened.

In many communities, this has proven successful in disputing false accusations and complaints against police officers, including in Franklin and Russellville, where police departments are already using cameras.

The Bowling Green Police Department is preparing to roll out its new body cameras after the Bowling Green City Commission approved $175,000 for the initial setup. Each camera will cost $399 and the department plans to buy 95 cameras and all associated hardware, software and software licensing fees necessary for the cameras’ operation and video storage.

Before the rollout, officers will be trained on the proper use of the technology.

It sounds like a good system that will offer the public and the media an opportunity to view the videos from the body cams under an open records request.

A video manager will be responsible for redacting videos as needed for open records requests, but original videos will never be altered. Some videos of officers on calls that involve juveniles will have the juveniles’ identities obscured. Videos involving juveniles will be redacted on open records requests because of state law. Recorded video will be stored at least 60 days and could be stored for much longer depending on the evidentiary value of the video. The cameras will be worn by all officers who drive marked patrol cars. Officers will not be able to erase any of the imagery.

Body cams offer even more visibility into a department that we believe is already transparent.

As mentioned previously, Russellville and Franklin have already rolled out these cameras and are having success with them. Since Russellville police officers started wearing body cameras, its department experienced a 50 percent decline in citizen complaints against police. In two notable incidents in Russellville that could have resulted in litigation when citizens complained of police misconduct, the videos exonerated the officers.

Before the introduction of cameras in Franklin, the department received three to five formal complaints a year. Since the cameras were implemented nearly two years ago, one citizen complaint has been made and the video from the body camera exonerated the officer.

This shows the effectiveness of cameras.

They’ve also proven to de-escalate situations on both sides. In both cities, officers and citizens know the body cameras are on.

Cameras will be a helpful tool to officers in our city by avoiding litigation, disputing false accusations and in an array of other issues. They can do for Bowling Green exactly what they have done in Franklin and Russellville, which are both success stories.

In a situation where an officer does not act appropriately or follow proper procedures, his or her actions will be recorded as well.

We’re excited for many reasons that the BGPD is about to introduce these high-tech body cameras.

Online: https://www.bgdailynews.com/

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