Wednesday, June 20, 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: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18