Editorial: Cheers & Jeers


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Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2013, 6:00 am
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The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus
Cheers to Moline police for never forgetting that Laura Brown was more than a name on a cold case file.

Led by Detective Mike Griffin, police solved the mystery surrounding the 1988 death of Ms. Brown whose body was found lying in a pool blood at the bottom of the basement stairs of her Moline home.

She was discovered stabbed to death when police went to her home to tell her that her husband, Joe Brown, had been shot twice in the head in Devil's Glen Park, Bettendorf. He died March 7, a day after Ms. Brown's death.

Paul Anderson would be tried and convicted in Mr. Brown's death and is serving a life sentence. But Laura Brown's death remained unresolved until Feb. 19. That's when Moline police say Detective Griffin and Lt. John Hitchcock met with Mr. Anderson at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison and he confessed to killing Mrs. Anderson.

Rock Island County State's Attorney John McGehee, in accordance with Laura Brown's family's wishes, decided not to bring additional charges. It was a wise choice, particularly because Mr. Anderson has no chance of being released from prison. The confession can't bring Ms. Brown back, but we hope that it can at last answer some of the questions that have been plaguing her loved ones for the past 25 years.

Jeers to the U.S. Supreme Court decision Tuesday that puts American's Fourth Amendment rights at the mercy of the dogs, or more accurately, their noses -- whether well-trained or not.

The high court ruled in Florida v. Harris that if a drug-sniffing dog alerts his police handler at a traffic stop, it is sufficient probable cause to conduct a lawful search. It overturned a Florida Supreme Court ruling which said that evidence of whether the dogs is properly trained and how is has performed in the field must play a part in determining whether a search is constitutional. Florida justices said that "courts often accept the mythic dog with an almost superstitious faith," but prosecutors should instead be required to offer proof of the dog's technical expertise such as training, certification and the record of the canine's performance in the field.

Justice Elena Kagan said instead that a dog's alert must be "viewed through the lens of common sense," adding, "a sniff is up to snuff when it meets that test."

While we admire her ability to turn a phrase, her conclusion fails to consider that, while many police canines and their handlers have the training and ability necessary to do the job, some do not. Absent uniform certification and training standards, prosecutors should have to prove their competence before a search is constitutional.

Cheers to NASCAR's Danica Patrick who Sunday will become the first woman to start the historic Daytona 500 at the pole position. Indeed, in only her first full season as a Sprint Cup driver, she will become the first female driver to qualify to lead ANY Sprint Cup race. She did it at a speed of 196.343 miles per hour. It's not the first "first" for this woman whose good looks have contributed as much as anything to the hype surrounding her. She holds the record for the top finish by a woman in the Indy 500, with fourth place. And she's the first female to win any NASCAR race. But not all fans in this male-dominated sport will be celebrating if she does well today. We lack the expertise to predict the race's outcome, but one thing is certain, her presence is good for the sport. Diehard fans would do well to welcome such attention. Professional sports need casual fans to survive.

Jeers to an agreement that conceals from the people it works for just what led the Metropolitan Airport Authority of Rock Island County to agree to pay an astounding $550,000 settlement to a former employee.

Lawyers for former director of finance Holly Green aren't commenting on the settlement other than to say that they are satisfied with the outcome of the case which grew out of a charge of discrimination she filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Though the department dismissed the claims, Ms. Green threatened to file a lawsuit. That led to this week's settlement agreement.

Those who pay property taxes to the authority have every right to wonder what occurred that would make a half a million dollar settlement preferable to giving Ms. Green her day in court. The authority's lawyer Sigrid Zaehringer said, "The airport is happy to move forward, feels it acted legally and properly." The settlement, she added, was in the best interest of the airport because it avoided a lot of time and expense.

The insurance carrier will pay the $550,000, but that doesn't holds the taxpayers harmless if they pay the premiums which provide the insurance. Will those costs go up? Is there a danger of whatever led to this settlement occurring again? Too many questions. Too few answers.















 




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