- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Kansas City Star, May 10

A fallen officer, rampaging suspect and region awash in guns:

Kansas City, Kan., police detective Brad Lancaster made the ultimate sacrifice Monday while protecting this community.

Lancaster was shot and killed by a person who should not have had a gun in his hands.

The detective, who was 39, leaves behind a wife and two children.

Lancaster was an Air Force veteran who worked for the Platte County (Mo.) Sheriff’s office and at the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department for the last nine years.

The suspect - mentioned by name only once in this editorial as Curtis Ayers - has been in trouble with the law for years.

He has been prosecuted for a string of criminal behavior, including domestic battery, child abandonment, fleeing police and making a terroristic threat. He had been released on parole just four months ago from the Kansas Department of Corrections.

After Lancaster was shot, the suspect used a gun to commandeer other vehicles, scared citizens out of their wits and, eventually, shot and injured a woman on a highway.

Moments after that last incident, the suspect was captured after being shot by a Kansas City Police Department officer who - coincidentally - had been on that city’s force for nine years, the same amount of time Lancaster was on the job in Kansas City, Kan.

That Kansas City officer deserves the community’s thanks in preventing even further mayhem at the hands of the armed suspect.

The killing of detective Lancaster will lead to more charges and more prison time for a convicted suspect.

But none of that will bring Lancaster back to live out the rest of his life with his family.

His death has sparked a range of emotional reactions across the Kansas City area, most notably grief at the loss of a public servant.

We should be thankful that thousands of police officers go to work every day with the noble intention of helping the people who largely put their trust in the law enforcement community.

In recent years legitimate concerns have been raised about police shootings of civilians - too many of them unarmed and too many of them African American.

But Lancaster’s death is a sobering reminder to all of us that the overwhelming number of officers in the Kansas City area go to work for the right reasons. They want to create safer communities for the people who live here.

The officers’ work, though, can come at a cost that the public can’t readily see.

Shortly after one of his officers shot the suspect Monday afternoon, Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté said on Twitter “.@kcpolice investigating PO involved shooting Bannister & 71 hwy. Suspect crashed. Officer not physically injured.”

Shooting at another human being should never become a regular, expected occurrence in a civilized society.

And yet, this region suffers far too many deaths and injuries caused by guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

They include criminals like the suspect, of course, but also far too many citizens who don’t know how to use firearms and others who won’t properly lock up their guns so they are harder to steal.

This area and this country are awash in firearms for many reasons.

America’s gun manufacturers have shown they will do anything to pump up their sales to make a profit.

The National Rifle Association and other gun lovers have twisted the Second Amendment into an excuse for arming far too many people.

And lawmakers in Kansas and Missouri are recklessly making it even easier to carry loaded weapons, with no training, almost anyplace and anytime.

If there is any solace in the death of a local police officer - any solace at all - it is that we have not seen one killed in the line of duty in this region since 2001. (A Riverside officer was struck by lightning in 2011 while on tornado disaster response duty in Joplin, Mo.)

Yet that statement of fact misses the point that officers go to work every day and can be shot, beaten or otherwise injured while doing a job that so few in our society are qualified to do.

Or would do.

Police officers every day deal responsibly with people who are speeding, trespassing or taking part in other nonviolent acts.

But these officers also handle far more dangerous situations involving hardened criminals who have no concern for the lives of others.

Detective Brad Lancaster encountered one of those individuals on Monday. Because of that, he will not return to his family. He will never work again with his fellow officers.

But he should always be remembered for the price he paid as a public servant of this community.


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 9

New chief, fresh start for Ferguson:

The arrival of Delrish Moss as Ferguson’s new police chief offers the chance for a fresh start in a community still scarred by riots and protests prompted by the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown. A fresh start, however, doesn’t mean the slate’s been wiped clean.

Moss inherits a police force that has been too slow to embrace the call for reform, and he will no doubt encounter resistance as he attempts to modernize procedures and eliminate entrenched, prejudicial patrolling practices.

The new chief has a massive public relations job ahead as he attempts to dispel an atmosphere of distrust. Much of Moss’ focus in Miami, where he served with the rank of major, was public-relations oriented.

Moss, 51, can continue preaching his gospel that not all cops are bad, as he’s done in Miami, but a large sector of Ferguson’s population wants more than talk. They want visible proof on the streets.

And they’re not the only ones. The U.S. Justice Department demands deep reforms as well, including a complete revamp of procedures that turned the police department into a revenue-generating machine for the city through heavy emphasis on ticket-writing and court-imposed fines.

From 2012 to 2014, blacks comprised 67 percent of Ferguson’s population but accounted for 93 percent of arrests. At the time of Brown’s death, the department had 50 white officers and only three blacks.

A Justice Department report last year found that police procedures targeted poor and minority residents for enforcement. Immediately after the report was issued, the city manager and police chief resigned. An interim police chief also resigned in December, having lasted less than five months on the job.

Moss told The New York Times in an interview published Monday that he expects “pushback” and resistance to change. “I’m not nervous about it; I expect it,” he said. “The challenge will be to figure out how to work around it, or there are some people who will decide the Ferguson Police Department is not where they want to be.”

If we read those signals correctly, Moss plans to clean house. And that’s good.

The grudging acquiescence that has accompanied the Justice Department’s demand for reform is a sign that commanders and rank-and-file officers still don’t recognize that there’s a problem. As if riots, protests and sustained international infamy, brought about by the killing of an unarmed black youth, weren’t enough.

Moss rose to a senior rank in Miami having bypassed interim levels that involved daily command of rank-and-file officers. He’s light on crime-solving experience. At the same time, a big aspect of the job in Ferguson is building community relations, which clearly is his forte.

He’s got a tough job ahead. And no time to waste bringing results that residents can see.


St. Joseph News-Press, May 9

Voter ID objections fall:

“Racist” and “discriminatory” - if these are not fighting words, at the minimum they set a tone that is sure to make well-intentioned people defensive.

This goes to the heart of the debate over requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote in Missouri elections. Support breaks down along party lines on the presumption the requirement would negatively impact poor, older, inner-city voters who lean Democrat.

Too many Democrats, seeking to turn back the proposal, have sought to portray voter photo ID as racist or purposely discriminatory. They also float the questionable argument that there is no reason to be concerned about voter fraud in our state, apparently even in metro areas where the problem has been seen before.

Too many Republicans, seeking approval of the proposal, have casually dismissed the notion that otherwise eligible citizens could be denied their right to vote.

This standoff has blocked action - until now. We give credit to supporters of the ID law for making a decisive concession that reinforces their good intent.

The General Assembly last week sent the legislation to Gov. Jay Nixon after lawmakers agreed to an exception clause allowing a person without a government photo ID to vote if they provide some other identification and sign a statement saying they didn’t have the specified ID.

The other identification could include a copy of a government document, financial statement or utility bill that contains the voter’s name and address.

This concession prompted Democrats in the Senate to drop a filibuster holding up action. Many still disagree about the need for the ID requirement but realize the argument about fundamental unfairness has crumbled.

Republican Rep. J. Eggleston of Maysville says it best: Everyone deserves to have their vote count, “but they also deserve not to have their vote canceled out by a fraudulent vote.”

Assuring this should be a cornerstone of our election laws. But as much headway as has been made, this isn’t over.

The proposal, if signed by the governor, will not take effect unless Missouri voters approve a related constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to require photo voter IDs.


Jefferson City News-Tribune, May 10

When state law clashes with federal rulings:

Four years after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on juvenile offenders, a Missouri senator is working to bring Missouri into compliance before the session ends Friday.

The bill is commonly known as the “Miller fix” - named for a 2012 U.S. high court ruling in Miller v. Alabama - and the Senate proponent is Bob Dixon, a Springfield Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Missouri law now provides that juveniles under age 17 convicted of first-degree murder face two punishment options - the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled execution is unconstitutional for juvenile murderers.

Seven years later, in the Miller case, the court ruled life without parole similarly is unconstitutional as a lone punishment for juveniles.

The ruling permits a sentence of life without parole for juvenile killers if another sentencing option is available.

Missouri’s law, however, has not been changed to provide another or other options.

“This is year four of trying to do a Miller fix,” Dixon said last week, noting the Senate has approved a bill that remains in a House committee as the session’s 6 p.m. Friday deadline nears.

“To me,” he added, “there are consequences and that is we continue to let victims, their families and the accused just hang in limbo.”

Dixon has asked members of the Missouri Bar to contact lawmakers and urge them to approve the legislation.

This legislation is not about whether Missouri should comply; the U.S. Supreme Court rulings require the state to offer punishments that are constitutionally permissible.

Missouri lawmakers are obligated to approve a Miller fix. And the clock is ticking.

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