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Editorial

It’s magical, but not the kind you find at Macy’s

Christmas Day is less than a week away and we can’t help but wonder just how merry our local citizens are feeling.
With many out of work and others making plans to leave the region in search of opportunity, we can’t help but believe the Christmas spirit this season may elude more than a few.
It is during times like these that one, perhaps, can find comfort in knowing the true reason the day is important to mankind rather than realizing why it is important to the retail industry.
Actually, no matter the country’s economic status, we feel it’s important to remember “the reason for the season” over and above the clamor of holiday shoppers and loud announcements blaring from televisions and radios of “On sale now!” and “Don’t miss out!”
Truth is, many do miss out. Not just this year, but in many. As a child, I recall my mother once admonishing to “not go to school and start asking other children what they got for Christmas.” At the time, I wondered at that piece of advice. Now, I realize, others don’t always get a visit from Santa.
Recently, we noticed a post on Facebook — yes, good old social media at play, but this time in a very good way. The Facebook “friend” posting his comment suggested that parents keep their “Santa” gifts simple. Perhaps Santa could bring a board game or two, a dump truck, a ball, a doll, an art set. But if plans are for Santa to bring the family children expensive items such as televisions, laptops, cell phones, tablets, bicycles — maybe Mom and Dad could just ‘fess up and admit those gifts are from them. The reasoning behind the suggestion? Because each family comes from a different economic background and therefore, all families cannot afford expensive “Santa” gifts.
If we keep Santa’s gifts simple, it’s much easier to explain to a less fortunate child why his classmate got a new laptop or game system and he got a basketball and new tennis shoes. Otherwise, how does a child reconcile how it is that Santa found his classmate more deserving of expensive items than he himself?
We realize that many will not utilize our Facebook friend’s suggestion but we think it’s worth noting, just the same.
And, just in case you find yourself trying to explain how Santa brings “big stuff” to some but not to all, and faltering with your words, how about just ‘fessin’ up completely and explaining that Christmas is not really about presents and tinsel at all but about One who shines far brighter and brings gifts much more precious than any found underneath a tree.


Darts and Laurels

A laurel to Johnson County’s ‘Work Ready’ preparedness — the cream always rises!

A dart to highway fatalities — so hard for those left behind.

A laurel to the Stafford House dinner theatres — encouraging community interaction in a variety of ways!

A dart to ‘truck vs. train’ incidents — trains always win!

A laurel to seasonal community activities — building trust, camaraderie.


Guest Editorials

DUI sentencing rules in need of change

By Jim Paxton
The Paducah Sun

Assistant County Attorney Todd Jones of McCracken County is lobbying for a change in the way some people are sentenced in first offense driving under the influence cases. And his argument is not falling on deaf ears, as state Rep. Gerald Watkins of Paducah says he will pre-file a bill this week in the General Assembly to modify the sentencing rules.
Specifically, Jones and Watkins want jurors to be told during the sentencing phase if the conviction of a person for first offense DUI really is their first.
As it now stands under Kentucky law, anyone convicted of DUI who has not had a previous DUI within the past five years is charged with first offense DUI. But in fact many of those people - more than 1 out of four - do have a previous DUI, just not within the past 5 years.
Under current sentencing standards, juries cannot be informed about those previous DUI convictions. Jones says that’s wrong. “You see a lot of first offenses when it’s actually their third or fourth,” he says. But because that information is presently kept from jurors, Jones says it is difficult to argue for harsher sentences in such cases.
“All the jury is allowed to know is what is involved in that case, not the individual’s history,” he says. Thus they are puzzled when prosecutors seek to come down hard on someone convicted of what appears to be a misdemeanor first offense.
There is a broad array of sentencing options for first offense DUI under Kentucky law. The fine can range from $200 to $500. The jail sentence can range from 2 to 30 days. There is a license suspension, ranging from 30 to 120 days and courts also can require between 48 hours and 30 days of community labor.
But juries typically recommend sentences at the low end of the scale in first offense cases.
Kentucky’s law also makes DUI a misdemeanor until the fourth offense in a five-year period. Jones notes that under that scenario one could theoretically have 33 DUI convictions between the age of 21 and 76 and never be charged with a felony.
That statistic actually goes to the bigger question of whether Kentucky’s five-year rule makes any sense. In many states, a DUI is a DUI and you don’t get to start over after avoiding arrest for a certain number of years. Take that rule away and the whole sentencing issue goes away with it.
But for now, Jones and Watkins are focused on changing the sentencing rules. Jones notes that over the past 12 months, 327 people have been convicted of first offense DUI in McCracken County. Of that group 91 actually had one or more DUIs that jurors could not be told about because they came prior to the five-year look back allowed by the law.
We think most will agree with Jones that when it comes time for sentencing, jurors should have this information. Watkins says that other states, including Illinois and Tennessee, allow such information to be considered, and he thinks his legislation to allow the same in Kentucky will have broad support in the Legislature.
We think the proposal does make sense, and it will bring Kentucky in line with surrounding states. The bigger question of whether the whole five-year rule should be scrapped may have to wait for another day, however.


Darts and Laurels


A laurel to the many civic groups and organizations that provide Christmas gifts for children in need — you make great Santas!

A dart to the high percentage of food insecure Kentuckians — this should never be.

A laurel to weekend community activities — seasonal fun for all!

A dart to being left in a box as a newly born baby.

A laurel to being found, saved and adopted by loving parents!


Guest Editorial

Police body cameras
The Courier-Journal

Events in Ferguson, Mo., have triggered a renewed interest in the use of video cameras to record interactions between police and the public.
Known as “officer mounted cameras” or more commonly, body cameras, such devices already are in use in several major cities including Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.
President Barack Obama drew fresh attention to the subject Monday when he announced he’s proposing up to $263 million in federal funds to help police departments buy body camera equipment.
But such devices already are on the way for Louisville Metro Police Department, which is planning to launch a pilot project by summer 2015 to try out police body cameras.
Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad first proposed the project about a year ago. The administration of Mayor Greg Fischer has been exploring the types of cameras available, the cost, a policy for use and technical details, such has how to store and access content of recorded material.
It also is working with civil rights groups and police union representatives.
By around June, the chief hopes to be trying out the devices in one police district and eventually, expanding them to about 500 patrol officers throughout Metro Louisville.
It is refreshing that Louisville is ahead in an area of growing national concern. It’s also encouraging that LMPD is willing to try out the devices advocates say can protect citizens from police misconduct as well as police from false claims of abuse or bias.
One study of a pilot program in Rialto, Calif., found that between 2012 and 2013, the first year police began wearing the cameras, complaints filed against officers dropped by 88 percent and use of force by officers declined by about 60 percent, The Huffington Post reported.
One could read that study to indicate police misconduct dropped. But it also could suggest citizens were less likely to file complaints when they knew a video recording documented their involvement with police.
Last week, the subject came up in Louisville at a community meeting sponsored by the Urban League. When asked by citizens whether LMPD would consider the cameras, the mayor and police chief were able to report the devices already are on the way.
The furor over a grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the white Ferguson officer who fatally shot the unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown, has been fueled in part by lack of a complete account of the officer’s interaction with the 18-year-old.
The officer told the grand jury that Mr. Brown punched him repeatedly and fought with him for his gun. Critics remain angry that the grand jurors relied on the police version of events, along with forensic evidence and witness accounts, but will never know what the slain youth would have said about the encounter.
A video of that interaction would have filled in the details that continue to haunt Ferguson and many throughout the nation.
In an era of heightened sensitivity about policing, especially within the African-American community, the use of such technology can only help to inspire confidence and provide a true record of what transpires between an officer and citizen.



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