Monday, February 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Welcome reforms of Tampa DUI squad

The Tampa Police Department is reforming its drunken-driving squad in a fair and sensible way. The new practices should give both law enforcement and the accused a stronger base of evidence, better enabling justice to prevail and narrowing the opportunity for officers and the well-connected to abuse their power and clout for personal gain. The reforms should help restore confidence in the department in the wake of last year's DUI arrest scandal.

The task force that police Chief Jane Castor empaneled to review 70 pending DUI cases could have offered a fuller perspective if its membership had been better balanced. The six-member team included a retired judge and five members from law enforcement, including the assistant police chief and two Tampa officers. While the task force was not charged with assessing guilt in any case, a representative from the defense side could have helped the team better accomplish its task, which was to determine if suspects were fairly detained and if arrest procedures were full, fair and complete enough to prosecute a case.

Still, the task force brought forth sound recommendations that Castor, to her credit, already has or will soon put in place. DUI officers will make fuller use of video recording. Capturing the totality of a suspect's interaction with police should help reduce accusations of selective enforcement. Patrol supervisors will use video, too, and more closely scrutinize arrest reports. Officers will look to use additional field sobriety tests, which could provide them with a sounder basis for whether to make an arrest. And police will do a better job interviewing passengers and witnesses and in writing reports to more usefully document what drivers did and said.

The changes should help repair some of the damage that former Sgt. Ray Fernandez helped cause by what prosecutors said was a setup arrest of a Tampa attorney involving a rival law firm. The reforms won't stop police from taking action based on tips, but they should make it harder for officers to go rogue on personal missions by strengthening the chain of command. The changes also clean up lazy reporting and other spotty practices in ways that should benefit both law enforcement and the accused by giving both sides a fuller picture of the evidence before any case proceeds to the more serious and expensive realm of court.

Castor served the city well by commissioning the task force, shaking up the DUI unit, firing Fernandez, disciplining a second officer involved in the setup case and moving quickly to make the operational changes. The panel said it found "no red flags" of systemic problems and praised the department for treating people professionally and with respect. Between the lines, the report is the latest narrative that calls out weaknesses in the lower rungs of the command chain. Castor at least has addressed the scandal. It's too bad federal prosecutors, the FBI and the Florida Bar have not shown the same urgency.

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Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18
Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents may be wondering whom to trust. The political theater being played out in Washington hasnít settled the status of either the "Dreamers" or the estimated 11 million other undo...
Published: 02/13/18