- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Kansas City Star, June 22

Body cameras provide insight in police shootings. Why don’t KC officers wear them?

Recent police shootings that left three dead in Kansas City are yet another reminder: Officers should be equipped with body cameras. And the Kansas City Police Department shouldn’t wait until 2020 to make that happen.

Even though the Kansas City Police Department has studied the issue for years and rolled out a pilot program about two years ago, it lags behind counterparts in other major cities.

The initial price tag to implement the technology was expected to be around $6 million, police officials said last year. But now, the time line for implementation has slid all the way to 2020.

The continued delays are a disservice to both officers and the citizens they protect and serve.

Body cameras are an essential tool that provides accountability and transparency. The technology has been used to clear officers of various allegations. Footage has also been used to implicate wayward officers who may have otherwise escaped legal scrutiny.

In 21st-century policing, body cameras are also important in fostering trust within the community.

“We are always exploring technology that is out there that will make us more effective and better able to serve the public,” Kansas City Police Sgt. Jacob Becchina, the department’s spokesman, told The Star on Thursday.

A Police Executive Research Forum survey found that 39 percent of police departments that do not use body cameras cited cost as a primary reason. But excuses have been exhausted here in Kansas City. The police department can’t afford not to invest in this readily available technology.

As the father of one of the three victims shot and killed recently by police in Kansas City said, if officers had been wearing cameras, they could clear up any misconception about what police did and didn’t do correctly.

“I’m not picking on police,” Mark Draper said. “But from what I’ve seen, they came in with guns blazing.”

Police said Draper’s 34-year-old son, Robert A. White, was physically intertwined with Timothy Mosley during a fight when officers shot both men. Police contend Mosley pointed a gun at them.

A bystander’s video shows the encounter. Three officers fired within 10 seconds.

The department’s initial account of the incident seemed to justify the shooting. Body camera footage could have corroborated that assertion.

In another recent case, officers shot Ashley Simonetti as she wielded a decorative sword.

The absence of body cameras and the police department’s policy of withholding the names of officers involved in use-of-force incidents combine to sow distrust.

Standard professional practices suggest departments release officers’ names within 48 to 72 hours. So far, KCPD officials have not identified the officers involved. And they don’t plan to.

Shouldn’t the public know if officers have been involved in multiple shootings? That’s an accountability issue that could easily be addressed. Equipping police with body cameras would also help.

The police board must approve the use of body cameras. What’s the delay?


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 24

There’s still hope for political moderates in both major parties who believe that compromise and cooperation are the best way to conduct America’s business. The Tea Party, which rode a wave of popular discontent to seize 87 congressional seats starting with the 2010 election, is seeing its fortunes rapidly wane.

We suspect American voters are tired of harrumphing, angry politicians who think the only way to fix what’s wrong in Washington is to say no at every turn. The Tea Party caucus was responsible for the budget impasse that shut down the government in 2013. Today, only half of the politicians who rode the Tea Party wave into congressional office remain there. Only three dozen are seeking re-election, The Associated Press reports.

The lessons are simple: “No” is not a plan. “No” is not leadership. “No” is a simplistic way to thwart progress without offering a better way forward. It might have felt good at the time for anti-taxation conservative voters to support Tea Party candidates, but when it came to paying off the soaring federal debt and making the uncomfortable choices that kept our country afloat after the Great Recession, those politicians came up short on solutions.

Conservative commentator Dana Loesch, who co-founded the St. Louis Tea Party in 2009, was among the first to abandon the grassroots movement in 2011.

President Donald Trump is living proof of the consequences when anti-tax populism lacks a clear plan to address deficits and trillion-dollar priorities for spending on defense, infrastructure or, say, a border wall. Trump’s tax-cut plan passed, and the federal debt ballooned to a record $21 trillion.

Governing requires give-and-take compromises that don’t always fit into the anti-taxation mold. Unforeseen problems such as wars and natural disasters wreak havoc on balanced-budget absolutism.

In Houston’s conservative suburbs last year, Hurricane Harvey turned Tea Party fanatics into realists. Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, a Tea Party champion, tried hard to hold the “no” line when it came to disaster-relief funding after Hurricane Sandy battered the East Coast in 2012. He faced an embarrassing reversal when Congress cast a skeptical eye toward a $15.25 billion disaster-relief package for Houston, his hometown.

Cruz is now fighting to retain his seat. The Houston Chronicle reports that “Missing” posters are appearing around the city with Cruz’s photo attached, as if he were a missing pet. Tea Party voters accuse him of betrayal. Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke has pulled within 10 percentage points against Cruz in preference polls - no small feat in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994.

The Tea Party model failed because it lacked a coherent strategy. Those who jumped behind the Trump model are likely to experience similar frustration. Politicians touting simplistic solutions rarely survive the test of time.


Springfield News-Leader, June 21

A few years ago, Missouri leaders realized they needed to change their philosophy on dealing with children in troubled homes.

The goal never changed. At the heart of the issue has always been protecting children. For decades, that meant taking kids out of rough homes and placing them in the foster care system, with the hopes of leading them to a better home.

However, we’re a little wiser now about what children need.

A 2005 study found that, as adults, children who were placed in foster care had PTSD rates twice as high as U.S. War Veterans. Even with the best intentions, removing a child from a family is traumatic.

So what officials aim to do now is to work with the parents in the home as much as possible. The next step is usually to search far and wide for family that can care for a child while a parent gets support, treatment or even legal intervention. The end goal, if possible, is to reunite the child with his or her biological parents.

We make those efforts because we’ve found it’s in the best interest of the child.

And that’s what federal officials should be considering as we deal with current immigration issues.

It’s possible to maintain order and enforce the law without removing children from their families.

Sen. Roy Blunt is among other legislators who have proposed a workable solution with the Protect Kids and Parents Act.

On one hand, it aims to increase immigration judges and authorize new shelters to deal with an increase in families seeking asylum. In doing so, it also mandates that immigrant families must be kept together unless there is “aggravated criminal conduct or threat of harm to the children.”

Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump signed an order ending the practice of separating families.

The argument on this issue has largely been about the welfare of children versus the requirement to uphold the law. And while there’s a more sophisticated debate to be had along those lines, there’s one piece of the puzzle that should be simple: We should do our best to not cause lifelong trauma to children.

Our immigration issues are unlike legal issues we’re familiar with domestically, but it’s normal to draw comparisons in an attempt to understand what’s happening at the border.

A lot of folks have argued that we’re handling people seeking asylum illegally the same way we’d handle any other lawbreaker - the adult goes to jail, whether he or she has children.

That’s often true, but many times there is another parent in the home that can still care for children. If Child Services must be involved, then the search begins for other family.

Immigration matters, like family issues we deal with locally, don’t have to go ignored. We can still intervene. We can still enforce the law. We can still protect children.

But to do that, we have to understand that it means doing everything we can to keep them with their families.

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