Alabama editorial roundup
The Associated Press
Sep. 06, 2017
Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
Decatur Daily on police departments having access to military equipment:
Police departments around the country will again have access to surplus military equipment that has been off-limits for several years.
President Donald Trump signed an order reviving a Pentagon program giving police access to gear such as grenade launchers and high-caliber weapons. These had been unavailable to police since 2015, when former President Barack Obama scaled back the program amid complaints and concerns about heavily armed police response to protesters after the killings of several black men around the country.
It's difficult to imagine a police department needing grenade launchers and high-caliber weapons, even in a tense situation. Many departments have SWAT teams that are specially trained to handle armed standoffs with a minimum of risk to the general public. These units use some specialized weapons, but few of them would be found on a battlefield.
Some departments now have armored vehicles, and many have ballistic helmets and body armor.
That might seem excessive, but in this day and time, police can find themselves in very violent situations that require extra personal protection.
Some police departments are doing a better job of making personal contact with the people they are sworn to protect.
It's a community policing tactic that, according to the departments that use it, has opened important lines of communication between officers and ordinary people. That has led, in many cases, to crimes being solved more quickly.
Police presence in the community does not have to be a negative experience. Community policing eases tensions by personalizing officers and community members through casual interaction. It has proven to be effective.
Adding battlefield weapons and equipment to police forces carries the risk that, if the equipment is used too often or improperly, all the goodwill created through community policing can be undone. Large-caliber weapons, machine guns, grenade launchers and armored vehicles on city streets would be unsettling in any community.
The Montgomery Advertiser on the search for a new president for Alabama State University:
Alabama State University is nearing the end of its new president search, nearly eight months after the Board of Trustees dismissed Gwendolyn Boyd from the university's leadership.
The search has been anything but smooth as it was once suspended in March when the Board of Trustees felt they didn't have the money to properly look for its top administrator.
The president's search identified four finalists, but the list shouldn't make alumni, students or the administration jump for joy. It's time to reopen the recruitment, given the university need to right itself from years of financial mismanagement and the high salary the president will earn (Boyd made $300,000 annually). Furthermore, the lack of diversity in the finalists is troubling.
Boyd was fired for "failing to maintain the confidence of the board," but it's the confidence in the president's search that should be questioned now.
Quinton T. Ross Jr., Robert C. Mock Jr., Tony Atwater and Willie D. Larkin met with various groups on ASU's campus last month, making their face-to-face push for the job with alumni, staff and university leadership.
Three candidates — Mock, Atwater and Larkin — had short stints as presidents at other Southern universities. Larkin resigned from Grambling State University after a year in 2016. Atwater was fired from Norfolk State University in 2013 after a two-year stint. Mock was replaced this year at Johnson and Wales in Charlotte after two years.
The fourth candidate, Ross, has served in the state Senate since 2002, is an alumnus with long ties to ASU and held leadership positions within several education systems. He was a finalist for the job when Boyd earned the nod, but he is the outlier because he hasn't been a lifelong higher education employee.
The university should remember when the search committee started its pursuit of new leadership that it wanted a president with higher education administrative experience.
It appears growing facial hair was a prerequisite. We joke, but the lack of a female candidate is troubling, so the Montgomery Advertiser is in the process of requesting the entire applicant pool.
The university should turn over the applications. Being open about the process is the only way to keep trust with the public that the hiring was an authentic, fair operation.
There is an urgency to get the decision right, but don't rush to make a decision. Given the candidates, none is a perfect fit, and the school should strongly consider starting over.
Dothan Eagle on rising gas prices following Hurricane Harvey:
As Hurricane Harvey lost strength and receded, leaving unprecedented damage in its wake, new fears emerged, driving fuel prices up on the cusp of the Labor Day holiday.
In Texas, motorists lined up for gasoline, depleting supply in some areas, recalling the shortages of the 1970s. While that response is understandable - even expected - so close to Harvey's Ground Zero, the rest of the nation would be wise to keep fear of shortages in check.
Fuel transmission through two major pipelines from Texas has been disrupted because of storm damage and flooding, and that will impact supply to the north toward Chicago and along the Gulf coast.
Fuel costs had already begun to rise late last week, by as much as 15 cents per gallon in some metropolitan areas.
As one of our most volatile commodities, the price of fuel reacts to market forces. A pipeline failure will drive up prices as consumers react to fears of shortage, and a run on gasoline stations will likely only make matters worse.
Settle down, and proceed as though it were a normal holiday weekend with the usual bump in fuel prices. There's little doubt that restoration of the fuel pipelines will be a top priority in the coming days and weeks, and there is ample reason to believe that the price of fuel will ebb and flow without surging into record levels seen a decade ago, when gasoline exceeded $4 per gallon in Alabama, according to the American Automobile Association.