Friday, June 22, 2018
Editorials

Fixing Florida's gang database

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri recognizes that Florida's gang prevention law defines gang membership so broadly that people can be unfairly designated as gang members and ultimately treated more harshly by the criminal justice system. Now he and other local law enforcement officers are calling for change. That is progress.

Florida's gang identification system came to light earlier this year when parents in Largo understandably complained that it cast too wide a net. The Tampa Bay Times Will Hobson highlighted the story of Justin Wiley, 22, who had been charged with trespass stemming from his wrongful inclusion on the list. His case demonstrates what can happen when an overbroad law is reflexively applied.

Gualtieri and other members of the Pinellas Police Standards Council said last week they will look to change the system that wrongly ensnared Wiley. Among the promising ideas: Consolidate all local databases of gang affiliations countywide; establish an appeals process so people can challenge their gang designation; and, most importantly, only enter people into the database if there is credible and substantial evidence of gang-related criminal activity, such as a prior criminal conviction. Had this been the rule, Wiley would not have been unfairly labeled a danger to society.

Wiley is not part of a street gang, but after deputies saw him associating with gang members, he was designated as one. Under the law, young men like Wiley can end up in a database of suspected gang associates or members even if they have no criminal record, no known gang activity and no gang tattoos. State law lists 11 criteria. If a person meets one of those criteria he is considered a criminal gang associate. If he meets two, he is a criminal gang member. These include being observed in the company of gang members four or more times, associating with a gang member or dressing in the style of a gang, among others. They are the kinds of activities that a young man in a poor neighborhood may find almost impossible to avoid.

The Legislature should tighten this law, but until then Pinellas County officials should change their own procedures so men like Wiley don't lose their future to false assumptions.

Comments
Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

It’s hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bay’s two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. That’s the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney general’s misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect — prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
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