- Associated Press - Thursday, September 22, 2016

Aberdeen American News, Aberdeen, Sept. 21, 2016

Mandatory police cameras would help trust factor

To protect citizens, and protect police, body cameras should be made mandatory for law enforcement in South Dakota.

American News reporter Bob Mercer recently wrote that there have been 35 shootings of criminal suspects by state, city or county law enforcement officers in South Dakota since 2001.

There have been 10 in the past 20 months, including most recently in Aberdeen on Aug. 14.

State investigators determined after each one that deadly force was justified, Mercer wrote.

You can take that news at least a couple of different ways.

Across the board, edge-to-edge, South Dakota officers are doing their jobs by the book. A perfect 35_0, which is worthy of our applause.

Or, the more skeptical view: That these investigations by the state are skewed to favor law enforcement, that a citizen has a higher burden of proof.

Again, 35_0 could raise some eyebrows.

It is important to remember that each report is a life-and-death story. Each tells of a situation in which a police officer or sheriff’s deputy or state trooper faced a person with a weapon that could kill.

So who’s to question past justified shootings? But what is clear is:

. The professional sophistication of the reports has increased in those 15 years. So have the details in these reports.

. Such shootings by police are becoming more common and will likely continue to escalate, 10 in the last 20 months vs. the other 25 in the 12½ years.

. The variety of places where these shootings happened shows something too. The risk is anywhere and everywhere.

. There are some common behaviors in the reports. Raise a firearm toward a law officer and shooting will begin. Charge with a knife toward an officer and shooting will begin. Try to drive a vehicle over an officer and shooting will begin. And justifiably so.

The reports also make it clear that the officers and deputies and troopers who serve and protect us never know when they will have to risk their lives to save ours.

This nation’s relationship with its police force is in a volatile state. But not as much in South Dakota, or so it seems.

Having our law enforcement officers wearing body cameras would help maintain and build upon the trust that still exists in our state.

Mandatory body cameras certainly won’t solve all the problems between police and the people they serve. But it is a step in the right direction. So are more detailed reports on police shootings and releasing the findings from the body cameras.

We want to be safe, and we want our protectors to be safe. Body cameras would help both groups, and would help justify our trust in officers with video evidence.

In South Dakota, we believe law enforcement does a good job to protect and serve. We thank them for their work.

But the mood in America - including here - shows we want law enforcement to be more accountable to the people they work for. So a call by Americans for mandatory body cameras should be heeded.

____

The Daily Republic, Mitchell, Sept. 20, 2016

Dakota Wesleyan’s forum deserves kudos

Dakota Wesleyan University is taking on an uncomfortable discussion next week that needs to be applauded.

During its annual McGovern Civic Engagement Forum, the McGovern Center and DWU will host Dr. Mary Hess, who is speaking on the topic “White Privilege in Small-town America.”

The event, which is open to the public, will also have a panel discussion with local leaders regarding ways South Dakota communities need to work to overcome racism and discrimination.

It’s hard to ignore the fact our region is slowly becoming more diverse.

More often, we’re seeing people of color serve as teachers, doctors and manufacturing workers throughout Mitchell. DWU recruits black students who are involved in athletics and become active community members.

According to the Mitchell School District’s most available report card, 86 percent of its students are of white, non-hispanic origin. That’s a drop from about 89 percent during the 2010-11 school year. Last year, there were also 60 students, or 2.2 percent of the district’s student body, whose ethnic makeup includes two or more races.

As South Dakota and Mitchell become more diverse, we need to embrace the change in the right manner. And, discussing the issue, as Dakota Wesleyan and the McGovern Center have organized, is the right approach.

We encourage anyone to sit in and listen to Hess and the local panel.

This topic easily could be ignored, but Wesleyan is taking great steps in bringing it to light.

To be a progressive community, we need to embrace all cultures. Next week’s forum is a big step in helping Mitchell move in that direction.

Kudos to DWU and the McGovern Center for their work.

____

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Sept. 18, 2016

IHS failures should lead to change

It is inefficient, often ineffective and always costly. It also frequently falls short when it attempts to communicate its message to the public.

It’s the poster child - at least in western South Dakota - of government dysfunction.

Welcome to the Indian Health Service, unless, of course, you are a patient in need of emergency care. Then you will be sent to Rapid City Regional Hospital, which is what IHS said it will do when it announced Tuesday the imminent closure of the emergency department at Sioux San Hospital in Rapid City.

For those who are counting, IHS has now temporarily closed two emergency rooms this year in western South Dakota. The other was on the Rosebud reservation, which was closed for several months after the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, cited numerous deficiencies there. The same agency also cited many problems this year at the Pine Ridge hospital. Both reservations have had long-running problems at their hospitals.

CMS also cited problems at Sioux San’s emergency department this year, including patients not receiving appropriate medical screenings, an essential element of health care.

But last week’s announcement by IHS officials didn’t mention those issues or the correction plan that was approved in May by CMS. Rather, the press release cited the age of a facility built over 100 years ago for its decision to close the department in just one week.

Among those not anticipating the announcement was Regional Hospital, whose communications manager said in a press release that the hospital was “surprised and disappointed” by the decision.

On the day of the announcement, meanwhile, a Journal reporter asked an IHS spokesperson how many emergency visits are there at Sioux San? It took another 24 hours before he learned it was 14,400 patients in the past 12 months, although he also was told most of them did not require emergency care.

Nonetheless, it seems possible that Regional Hospital could expect to soon see many new patients in its emergency room, which likely would place a substantial burden on the city’s only privately run hospital.

It is interesting to note that Tuesday’s announcement came less than two months after IHS officials did what they frequently seem to do when reports of inadequate performance surface: float new building plans.

In a story published in the July 23 Journal, the current acting director at Sioux San revealed that federal officials want to demolish 16 structures and the water tower, demolish or remove five buildings, rehabilitate two buildings and build “a new hospital facility” at the campus on the west side of town.

That plan comes nearly 10 years after IHS announced it would spend $51 million to expand operations at Sioux San for a project that, perhaps fortunately, never got off the ground.

If IHS has proven one thing, however, it is that spending more money does not guarantee better results. It’s clear the problems are systemic at IHS, which continues to fall short on the promise to provide adequate and reliable care to Native Americans.

It seems there has never been a better time to seriously consider an overhaul of a health-care system that only seems to excel at spending money. Sens. Thune and Rounds and Rep. Noem have all voiced concerns this year about the quality of care at IHS facilities in western South Dakota and have said they want to see change and improvements.

We ask them to now lead the charge to find a better and more cost-effective way of providing health care and reshaping a federal agency that despite its $4 billion annual budget has failed Native Americans and taxpayers over and over again.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide