Thursday, April 26, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Learning from chaos in Missouri

President Barack Obama appealed for calm in a St. Louis suburb Thursday and the Missouri governor shifted control of security from local police to the state highway patrol after several nights of civil unrest that has captured the nation's attention. The protests following the death of an unarmed black teen shot by a police officer and the overreaction by police put the suburb of Ferguson on the map for all the wrong reasons. But the images of armored trucks, plumes of tear gas and police officers clad in riot gear offer lessons for all communities.

First, Ferguson police overreacted with a militarylike presence on the streets at night. That shocked Americans watching news reports and following along on Twitter, and it inflamed emotions on the ground. Police agencies in the Tampa Bay area and elsewhere have more military-type equipment and greater firepower than in other eras, and those resources should be used with restraint. The outrage over the aggressiveness in Ferguson led the governor to finally intervene on Thursday as school in the area was canceled for today.

Second, keeping residents informed in tense times is more important than ever. The police have refused to name the officer involved in the shooting and have withheld other details about the incident, including how many times the teen was hit. In the vacuum of information, tempers flared and rumors spread. Peaceful protestors were met by a police force, a mishmash of local and county agencies, that responded with guns drawn atop armored trucks in broad daylight. At night, when some of the protests turned violent, officers have fired rubber bullets into crowds, lobbed tear gas canisters near international news crews and arrested two journalists working in a fast-food restaurant.

Third, citizens have the right to conduct peaceful protests and law enforcement has to accommodate those protests even in times of stress. Ferguson tried to stop all gatherings at night, and it backfired. Law enforcement agencies in Tampa Bay and elsewhere are better trained to accommodate protesters and see that they remain peaceful.

Finally, law enforcement agencies have to work harder to hire officers who better reflect their communities. Only three of 53 police officers are black in Ferguson, where about two-thirds of the 21,000 residents are black. The lack of trust between residents and law enforcement can escalate civil unrest, as Tampa and St. Petersburg learned in other decades.

The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI are conducting independent investigations into the teenager's death, which triggered this week's violence. That is an appropriate role for the federal government, particularly when local law enforcement overreacts and loses credibility and control of the situation. Obama said there is no excuse for violence against police, citizens conducting peaceful protests or members of the media. The mistakes made in Ferguson should provide valuable lessons to the rest of the nation about the importance of strong ties between residents and local police — and the consequences of overreaction by law enforcement.

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Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Updated: 1 hour ago

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18