How to improve policing in Florida and beyond | Letters
Here’s what readers are saying in Monday’s letters to the editor.
Too often a routine traffic stop turns into an violent or deadly encounter, one that could have been avoided.
Too often a routine traffic stop turns into an violent or deadly encounter, one that could have been avoided. [ THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH | Columbia Daily Tribune, Mo. ]
Published Apr. 19
Updated Apr. 19

Policing needs an upgrade

Minnesota officer who shot man to death meant to draw Taser, not handgun, chief says | April 12

I served as an assistant public defender at the beginning of my legal career for approximately five years. That experience left me aware of one true thing: Being a police officer is the toughest job you can ever imagine. On a daily basis, you are expected to be completely familiar with the latest nuances of constitutional law, a social worker who can defuse volatile situations, and the toughest man or woman in the valley. I’ve never gone down a dark alley not knowing who might be there wishing to do me harm, or into a dark house. Unless you have, it may be wise to temper your criticism of our police.

Nevertheless, like so many people, I am dismayed and disheartened to see a continuous stream of African-Americans die at the hands of law-enforcement officers, when the offense that attracted the officer’s attention was relatively minor. Clearly change is needed in our manner of policing. Clearly the authorities need to understand that it not reasonable to respond to a routine traffic stop with the threat of deadly force, much less its use. New rules are clearly needed, and in making those rules we need to balance the rights of citizens with recognition of the degree of danger we ask police officers to accept as a part of their daily work lives.

Paul Ley, Belleair

Missed opportunity

DeSantis: Businesses requiring ‘vaccine passports’ can’t get state money | April 2

Gov. Ron DeSantis missed a golden opportunity to help Florida recover from the COVID-19 crisis. If he had encouraged vaccine passports rather than opposing them, many who are sitting on the fence about getting vaccinated might realize there would be places they can’t go without one, and might change their minds about getting the jab. As it is, similar vaccination passports, while not for COVID vaccines, have always been required for travel to many countries abroad. A similar requirement for COVID vaccinations would be a powerful incentive for everyone to get vaccinated. Businesses and ticketed events in Florida would have a tool to keep their customers safer from infections, and with a resulting boost in the percentage of the population getting vaccine protection, we might be able to put the pandemic in the rear view mirror sooner.

Betsy Clement, Dunedin

Voting equals power

Florida Senate approves ‘anti-riot’ bill, heads now to DeSantis | April 15

If the Black, brown, progressive and other people who correctly interpret the “anti-riot bill” (HB1) as a another slap in the face by the white Republicans in Tallahassee, perhaps they should use the energy they would have spent protesting and instead direct it to getting everyone registered to vote, and then to actually vote in every election, every time. Voting is where the real power lies. In 30 years, whites will no longer be such a powerful majority, but we don’t have to wait until then; we can vote them out right now.

James Condon, Port Richey

Signature silliness

DeSantis wants voters’ signatures to match. Would his pass the test? | April 13

Thanks for publishing the article by Steve Contorno about Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature changing over time. This points to the uselessness of signature “matching” as proof of identity except as a device and pretext to toss away someone’s legitimate vote.

Signatures have always been used as a backup method of proving the authenticity of a document when there is question about its validity. No one checks a will to see that the signature matches unless someone is challenging the authenticity of the will. Same with most checks and financial instruments, absent a question of forgery. A signature proves that the named person signed and committed themselves to the contractual obligation implied. Even today the illiterate can sign documents with an “X” so long as it is noted and properly witnessed.

Matching a signature would be a forensic exercise done by experts usually in a legal proceeding. May I suggest most election board members are not qualified to make a determination about a signature match in the first place? May I also suggest and that this is a process easily abused by the politically unscrupulous or those too easily intimidated by state and even federal officials?

Harley Lofton, Palm Harbor