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Everybody's Column

People must speak up ?in order to fight crime

Lou Michel's and Maki Becker's well-investigated May 27 article "The code of the streets," which explores the attitudes that discourage witnesses to violent crimes from cooperating with police and prosecutors, goes right to the heart of the biggest problem we face in law enforcement. There has emerged a yawning gulf of mistrust and misunderstanding between law enforcement and people who live in communities most wracked by crime. I ascribe this not to a culture of "snitches get stitches" – that's just a slogan – but to a whole panoply of police practices that have emerged over the past two decades that emphasize statistics and technology and give short, if any, shrift to real engagement with the community.

At the outset of the work of the Joint Commission to Examine Police Reorganization, we heard that the Buffalo Police Department's idea of community policing is to have two community police officers assigned to each of the department's five policing districts. Ten officers out of a force of nearly eight hundred? This is complete nonsense. In Albany, where in recent years, the police department has worked very hard to respond to the needs, expectations and sensibilities of the community, fully 10 percent of the department's manpower is permanently assigned to the Neighborhood Engagement Unit program under which they are embedded in neighborhoods. That's about 30 officers out of a force of just over 300. That is a serious commitment to the building of a partnership of trust and cooperation. It also enhances the department's patrol and investigative functions because these neighborhood-based officers provide valuable intelligence that eludes officers patrolling in cars or investigating individual crimes.

If the Buffalo Police Department can't get witnesses to cooperate in its investigations of murder after murder and District Attorney Frank Sedita has to drag them into court in handcuffs to testify, I'd say we're looking right at the elephant in the room.

Terry O'Neill, director

The Constantine Institute


Jurors rendered the proper decision based on the law

Of the different types of government our founding fathers considered while establishing our country, a democracy was considered the least desirable. They knew from history that democracy, "majority rules," as a form of government, does not work. Instead they gave us a republic, which translates to "of the law." So we have a government of laws.

As the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently pointed out to us in his "Letter from Birmingham City Jail," there are two kinds of laws; just and unjust. As responsible citizens, it is our personal obligation to determine whether a law is just or unjust. We are then obligated to obey a just law and to take peaceful action to repeal an unjust law.

When called for jury duty, each member of the jury pool is required to take an oath that they will render a verdict, in any case where they are selected, based upon the charges brought and the relative law or laws, as explained to them by the judge conducting the trial.

How any juror could take such an oath prior to being given a copy of the specific charges and pertinent law relative to each charge in a specific trial has always amazed me.

In my opinion, after reading the specific charges and pertinent laws, I commend the jurors for rendering the proper decision based upon the law.

Don't criticize the judicial system. Criticize the legislators, whom the people elected. They wrote the law that the majority feel is unjust.

Richard L. Drew Sr.



Superintendent search?raises many questions

I have no idea what is required to qualify for the position. My question is a simple one. If those applying from out of state are more qualified than our local job seeker, why are their former employers willing to let them go? The last one from out of the area had so much baggage that he needed 10 red caps to handle his affairs, still got hired with a contract that people would kill for, and left with more problems than the area had before he was hired. What's wrong with this scenario?

John B. Guzzi



Focus on childhood obesity?spotlights an emergency

Childhood obesity is currently at a crisis level nationally. The sad truth is that one-third of our children are obese or overweight. This figure has tripled over the past 25 to 30 years.

The much publicized HBO series, "The Weight of the Nation" examines the facts and myths of this obesity epidemic, showing how obesity affects not only the mental and physical health of the nation, but also the health care system, student achievement and the productivity of our work force.

One part of the series, "Children in Crisis," specifically discusses the obstacles parents and children face every day in their quest to be healthy. Children are bombarded with the advertising and availability of unhealthy foods both in and out of school. In addition, many children lack safe places for physical activity, and students in only 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools and 2 percent of high schools receive daily physical education. It seems that as the weight of our children has gone up, their test scores have gone down.

It's time to start focusing on prevention and creating environments that make it easy for young people to be healthy. Although schools have not caused the obesity epidemic, they can be a huge part of the solution to this problem. The Tri-County Healthy Schools NY Program at Erie 1 BOCES provides school districts with the support and tools they need to make being healthy an easy choice for their students and staff. I applaud the school districts that have partnered with this program and have made real changes that benefit the overall wellness of their school community.

Kate Huber

Tri-County Healthy Schools NY Program


Three cases demonstrate?inequities in legal system

Last Friday, The News ran articles about three alleged "criminals" and their possible punishments. Case No. 1 was about a drunk driver who killed a pedestrian – maximum penalty 23 years in jail. Case No. 2 involved a man who had an affair and misused campaign funds – maximum penalty 30 years in jail. Case No. 3 dealt with growing marijuana – life in prison if convicted. To extrapolate, would spitting on the sidewalk lead to public flogging and decades of solitary confinement? Could jaywalking be punishable by beheading? It boggles the mind!

John Bielinski

West Seneca


Karma will deliver?a fitting sentence

What a travesty. Third world justice for Alix Rice. It's a sad state when we have to depend on karma for justice. Let's hope Dr. James G. Corasanti, his attorneys, the people who helped and especially the jury feel the effects of karma. They surely did find a jury of his peers.

Whitey Nichols