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Letters to the Editor

Undue attention

March 5, 2012

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To the editor:

I think it’s disgusting that the Journal-World felt the need to plaster headlines on the front page about one of our police officers fixing tickets. In the first place, that could have and should have been handled within the police department, not made public. The officer should have received a reprimand and definitely not lost his job after 21 years of service. This officer has done a lot of good for our community and, like all officers, he has put his life on the line every day.

He didn’t do anything worse than what the courts do. Aren’t they accepting a bribe when we pay double the fine on moving violations so they won’t report it to our insurance company?

If you reported all the “illegal” things going on in our city government on the front page, you wouldn’t have room for any other news.

Comments

Ragingbear 2 years, 9 months ago

First of all, it is the fact that it was the police department that corrupt, so they needed to be reported. Secondly, if we wanted the police to police themselves, then we would have no control and no justice. Thirdly, to claim that the officer should have just been reprimanded makes me think that you are upset that you lost your job there, officer.

Get over it, you or your "friend" the officer that got fired should be in prison for abusing their power.

geekin_topekan 2 years, 9 months ago

I don't think that anyone got fired. Someone resigned and another is/was suspended.

Bassetlover 2 years, 9 months ago

A prison sentence for fixing six tickets over the course of nine years? Seriously? This isn't a third world country we're living in.

Crazy_Larry 2 years, 9 months ago

Bribery, a level 7 felony; tampering with government documents, a Class A misdemeanor; and possession of stolen property. No big deal! He's a cop. If anyone should know better, it was him. Glad he's gone. Wish he'd have been prosecuted just the same as anyone else. Good riddance.

Abdu Omar 2 years, 9 months ago

Because the police think they are a higher power, they should be held to a higher standard. If they want to give me a ticket for speeding, then they should never speed themselves, it is that simple. But we let them get away with things they wouldn't let us get away with. This has to stop. I respect the law because I believe in the law and those who enforce the law should also respect it, perhaps more than I.

grimpeur 2 years, 9 months ago

"Aren’t they accepting a bribe when we pay double the fine on moving violations so they won’t report it to our insurance company?"

Yes. Although I disagree with most of the author's statements, this one is true. Violations should be reported to insurance and DMV every time, so that the driver's record can do its job: demonstrate the driver's record! That's why we're allowed so many points/chances before losing the license.

Except that licenses are rarely suspended here unless DUI.

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 9 months ago

"Except that licenses are rarely suspended here unless DUI."

Yes, that's because Kansas is a "right to drive" state.

Orwell 2 years, 9 months ago

Except that everyone who gets a speeding ticket has equal access to this treatment, and it's done on the public record, and the benefit isn't obtained by giving stolen property to someone in authority.

Other than those little matters, yeah, it's pretty much the same thing as bribing a cop.

[facepalm]

nativeson 2 years, 9 months ago

The diversion program can be argued on its merits, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand. Nobody in the court system is committing a crime for personal gain. They are following a prescribed process that is in place in almost every municipality in the country.

Trying to point the finger at others does not mitigate the actions in this case. The officer knew it was wrong, and he chose to pursue this course of action. The accountability for the action is his and his alone.

rtwngr 2 years, 9 months ago

Sorry. If you swear an oath to uphold the law then that is what you. If someone asks you to fix a ticket, for whatever reason, the answer should always be no.

progressive_thinker 2 years, 9 months ago

I have to believe that the LPD took appropriate action, although I do not share the view that the officer's actions were violation of a gratuity policy. It appears to me that he was accepting a bribe, plain and simple.

Police officers take an oath to uphold the law. Their job leaves them in a position of power. If they misuse that power, citizens can and will be harmed. This time the price was a basketball ticket. What will the price be next time? Cash? Sexual favors? The list of possibilities goes on.

Police Chief Tarik Khatib acted correctly by informing the public of the department's actions regarding the misconduct. Citizens need to have confidence that, in those incidents where police abuse their power, swift and effective action is taken. As well, being transparent about his actions sets the tone for the officers who remain.

LPD is a good organization that occasionally has a bad apple. At issue is how the problem is dealt with. In this case, it looks like the chief acted quickly when he became aware of the problem.

Keep up the good work LPD.

kuhusker 2 years, 9 months ago

I disagree with the letter-writer. Those cops were sworn to uphold the law and they decided to break it for personal gain.

I would really like to know what they were thinking. I love KU basketball as much as anyone, but I can't imagine throwing away a 20-year career in public service just to go to a couple games (even the Missouri game this year :-)

woodscolt 2 years, 9 months ago

While you are able to make some good points in your lte, they get trumped by the officers behavior. Maybe dismissal was to much but to think that this officers compromise should not be news worthy is biased. Even though law enforcement has created a culture of "routinely operating out side the law", for you to think that it is just a simple matter that should have been hushed up like many others is wishful thinking. Congratulations to LJW for bringing this matter to the attention of the public. Maybe this will encourage law enforcement to think twice about breaking the law. And, yes, paying the court off to skirt the law accomplishes the same results except it is sanctioned by the court.

I wonder how many tickets have been issued to people who really were innocent of the violation they were ticketed for? It all comes down to trust because the deck is stacked. When that trust is violated the implications are infinite.

impska 2 years, 9 months ago

First of all, diversions are not a bribe because you are not giving extra money to an individual in order to corrupt their behavior. Secondly, the ticket only goes away if you are not ticketed for something else within a set period of time. Diversions are offered by the county in recognition of the fact that sometimes a good driver gets a fluke ticket. If it cost the same as the ticket, then regular offenders would be induced to use it on the off chance that they don't get pulled over. By making it cost more, the county forces the driver to self-discriminate: the driver knows best whether or not it's worthwhile to pursue a diversion.

Finally, the press is the only real check we have against corrupt officials. If the newspaper didn't cover corruption, then there would be no incentive to root it out. There would have been no repercussions internally for any police officer because of exactly the attitude that this letter expresses. The co-workers of the officer in question would have reasoned that he was a good person, that he doesn't deserve to be shamed for a minor incident. It was only the public outcry that induced action.

I am very sure that the editors of the LJWorld would love to put city government corruption on the front page. Nothing would sell papers faster. Unfortunately, the difference between a legitimate news source and a tabloid is that generally legitimate news sources require evidence of some kind. If you have specific details of government corruption, I am sure a reporter is waiting for your call even now.

woodscolt 2 years, 9 months ago

"...appeasing the fringe left-wing element of Lawrence..."

Coming from someone who is so "radically" rightwing, your comment can be interpreted to say

"... appeasing the moderate element of Lawrence..."

Greg Cooper 2 years, 9 months ago

So thoughtful, math. So insightful. So wrong.

Sibelius toopk a ton of negative press over Sunflower, abortion, tax policy and other matters important to the state. You, as you almost always do, have put a negative spin on an issue that is not.

As for "softballing" Obama, that's simple (minded) spin against anything you see with his name attached.

Your opinion is your opinion, and you are free to express it any time. However, it might make your arguments (for that's what they are--just arguments) a little more palatable to those on the fence if you'd try a bit harder to speak less harshly and a bit more thoughtfully.

Patricia Davis 2 years, 9 months ago

This was a not a time deal. The behavior continued for over a decade, even when the ticket system was changed and it took more effort to come through for the "friend." We don't know that it was a quid pro quo exchange of ticket for ticket. It could have been season tickets for each offense. We don't know what was involved except that cop CHOSE to do the wrong thing over and over again.

Matthew Herbert 2 years, 9 months ago

sometimes you have to throw the book at one or two individuals to make a point to the rest. Behavior that is unacceptable, but carries with it no deterrent will continue and spread.

Carol Bowen 2 years, 9 months ago

There probably are already policies and procedures in place for bribery. I agree that the reporting crosses the privacy line for a personnel issue. It's too easy for the media to ruin the reputation of an innocent person. We do not know the circumstances and should not know. Once we heard that there was a problem and how it was handled, that's good enough. No names please.

The LJW does not do a good job of selecting front page news. With events in Syria, Iran, and other countries, speeches by the president and responses, actions by our state government and the city, how does the LJW manage to make so much news out of a single local event?

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 9 months ago

You might have a good point, but it really doesn't seem to apply. International events don't seem to generate very many comments, and I assume very few page views also.

Quite a few times I have been either the only commenter or one of very few on international events. The articles that always seem to result in a lot of comments are local issues, such as this one, and I suppose that indicates the level of community interest.

Case in point: This article. At the moment, there are 27 comments.

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 9 months ago

Plus, there is this: The LJWorld.com website cannot seem to put national or international news online very fast.

It's always a day or so behind other websites such as DrudgeReport.com, FreeMuslims.com, or JPost.com.

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 9 months ago

But to be fair, sites such as DrudgeReport.com, CNN.com, and News.Yahoo.com have reporters working online 24/7, and FreeMuslims.com and JPost.com are 8-5 in what is the middle of the night here.

This is a local newspaper, not an international news website.

jafs 2 years, 9 months ago

I completely disagree.

If "personnel" issues are handled privately, with no disclosure to the public, how do we know they're being handled appropriately?

And, if officers are engaged in illegal activity, that's certainly something that we should know about.

I don't understand those who think that police issues like this should be handled secretly behind closed doors, and that the public should have no knowledge of them.

Carol Bowen 2 years, 9 months ago

Hmm. We would know that an officer left the force, because of the incident. What would be behind closed doors would be the names of the officers involved. I don't know much about state and local law, but in the federal government, there are specific limits on what an employee can do. The consequences can be reprimand, suspension, dismissal, or jail time depending on the severity of the offense. Those cases are handled on a need to know basis.

I would be more concerned if police officers were involved with drug trafficking or a protection scheme. Is their a citizen review board over the Police Department? I know it has been discussed. I guess I don't mind reading about it once or twice, but not on the front page every time. What if it had turned out that the officer was innocent? His reputation would be ruined anyway.

Wayne Propst 2 years, 9 months ago

what are the terms of the "retired" officer's pension?

JackMcKee 2 years, 9 months ago

sounds like someone is angry that they just lost their ticket pipeline.

pace 2 years, 9 months ago

It would be nice, to pick up a newspaper with the news there was no crime or corruption, It would not be nice if such thing were going on and not being reported on. Such a newspaper would not be fit for reading or printing. You might as well just print wall paper. I do like stories that show our heroes, both on the front lines and behind the scenes that make the community better. There is a lot of good news. I applaud those stories. I read them. There are a lot of stories of valor and courage that don't make it to press. But for the sake of the good guys, maybe don't print their home addresses for when there is a story run on them, the rotten slathering trolls often just target them. It seems like an insane letter to consider reporting the news worse than the fact the officer fixed tickets for tickets.

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