Editorial roundup: May 11, 2018

Posted 5/11/18

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

The Post and Courier

May 8

State needs to avoid becoming a dumping ground

The stalled train load of human sewage sludge from New York City was too palpable to be a mere metaphor for bad …

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Editorial roundup: May 11, 2018

Posted

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

The Post and Courier

May 8

State needs to avoid becoming a dumping ground

The stalled train load of human sewage sludge from New York City was too palpable to be a mere metaphor for bad public policy.

For more than 60 days, the stench made life in the small Alabama town of Parrish a misery until the load of 10 million pounds of treated human waste was finally taken away to a dump by trucks last month.

"They tell us this material is harmless," Parrish police officer Jeff Nelson told The Washington Post. "Well, if it's harmless why not get rid of it up North? Why send it down here?"

The question has been raised repeatedly in South Carolina when radioactive waste, toxic chemical waste, medical waste and out-of-state household waste - baled or incinerated - have been transported here. Indeed, Savannah River Site has received highly radioactive waste from around the nation, as well as from foreign nations, typically with an empty promise from the feds that it would be stabilized and shipped elsewhere.

In virtually every instance of unwanted waste disposal, only strong action by state government in response to an outraged public has forced the issue to the benefit of South Carolina. In the case of SRS, the state and Aiken County have taken the U.S. Department of Energy to court, so far with some success.

There also is reason for optimism this week as the U.S. House is expected to vote on kick-starting a long-delayed plan to store the country's nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain, northwest of Las Vegas. That plan is strongly backed by members of the South Carolina congressional delegation.

Of course, even success doesn't translate into undiluted victory. Consider the old Pinewood landfill, last operated by Safety-Kleen Inc. Located in an old kitty litter mine near the banks of Lake Marion, the site must be monitored in perpetuity in an effort to keep the lake from eventually being polluted by the seepage of chemical waste. Has there ever been a more preposterous location for a toxic chemical waste dump?

Parrish, Alabama, suffered the indignity of having to endure the reek of odor from what became known as "the poop train" after a neighboring jurisdiction legally brought the shipment to a halt.

And the current resolution doesn't mean the problem is finally solved. If a landfill is permitted to accept concentrated human waste it will do so as long as the price is right. Restrictions on interstate commerce are difficult to impose, even by a state government that is dedicated to the task.

It's even worse when state officials encourage the interstate shipment of waste as an economic boon. Once a state gets the reputation as a dumping ground, it's hard to get its good name back.

The Greenville News

May 4

Releasing names after shooting was right thing to do

Interim Sheriff Johnny Mack Brown is setting the right tone in releasing the names of the sheriff's deputies involved in the shooting of Jermaine Massey.

With the release of the officers' names, Brown is letting the public know that transparency is important, especially where the public's business is concerned.

After an internal investigation, the officers were recently cleared of any wrongdoing. However the public still should know their names. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is still looking into the circumstances of Massey's death. The deputies say they fired on Massey because he was holding a knife and took steps toward them. They said they tried to use other methods of diffusing the situation prior to shooting the 35-year-old man.

Master Deputy Wes Kilgore, Deputy Chris Bell, Deputy Mark Dulude and Deputy Jake Lancaster were involved in the March 19 shooting of Massey in the Poe Mill community. Lancaster was present but didn't fire his weapon, according to the sheriff's office. The four men have returned to work.

Why is it so important for the officers to be identified publicly? The answer should be obvious: a man lost his life at the hands of law enforcement officials. Anytime there is a death or serious injury involving officers there should be a higher level of scrutiny on the officers involved in the incident.

The previous sheriff, Will Lewis, withheld the names of officers involved in such incidents. Lewis is on unpaid leave following his indictment for sexual misconduct charges involving a former sheriff's department employee.

Lewis' decision to protect the officers' identities was the result of a new policy issued by the 13th Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins. It's a policy some agencies abide by and others do not. Ultimately, the decision is left up to the chief law enforcement official.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police has said that releasing the names of officers within 48 hours of an incident enhances public trust and adds to the transparency and integrity of the investigation. The organization further states that exceptions should be made where there has been a credible threat to an officer.

As best we can tell, no such threat has been made. The sheriff's office released the 911 call involving Massey's death but did not release the names of the officers. The solicitor's officers allowed Massey's family to come to their office and view the video of his death.

Police officers work for the public. Their salaries are paid by taxpayers. Their actions should be held to a higher standard, and their employment records should be scrutinized. Those records can't be examined if their names are withheld.

The argument for releasing the names and personnel records of officers involved in shootings is so the public can learn whether the officers involved have a history of using excessive force.

As we noted in a previous editorial, Massey's loved ones have a right to know about the backgrounds of the deputies involved in his death. Withholding such details raises questions when answers are needed. It may be months before the SLED investigation is complete. While the solicitor's office should be given credit for allowing the family to come to their office and view the video, the family and the others in the community were still not satisfied.

Transparency lends to the sheriff's office's credibility. The public's right to information should prevail over the privacy of the sheriff's deputies.