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Editorial: Firm safety plan needed for ECU games

The Daily Reflector
East Carolina University pulled an improbable upset last Saturday when the Pirates defeated the No. 8 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers. Yet, instead of basking in a triumph that captured the nation’s attention, the excitement has been dampened by allegations that some law enforcement officials used excessive force in the moments after the game’s end.
That is terribly unfortunate, and an exhaustive investigation, now under way, seems the justified response to these serious charges. Public safety is the goal in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, and all involved must be confident that message is readily understood and honored.
When the final seconds of East Carolina’s monumental upset ticked away, students massed under the scoreboard in the east end zone to rush the field, a tradition in college football. Law enforcement stood at the ready to oppose them, honoring orders to stop trespassing, protect the stadium and maintain order.
What followed is under review by the university and law enforcement. Video appears to show officers forcefully detaining students and sparring with individuals along a fence. They would eventually yield to overwhelming numbers as torrents of people poured onto the field to celebrate.
Some involved in the incident allege the force used by law enforcement was excessive and inappropriate given the obvious evidence that thousands of students were intent on overrunning the field. Chancellor Steve Ballard has promised to conduct a thorough investigation, and law enforcement agencies staffing the game are reviewing their procedures for football games. …
Passions are high in the wake of this incident, as would be expected, and the university community deserves clear answers about what happened and a firm plan for how to proceed in the future.
All should look for the investigations and law enforcement reviews to provide them.
óóóFrom News & Record of Greensboro, Sept. 10
Hostile attitude toward Hispanic and Mexican population may destroy sheriff’s integrity
The bigoted attitude expressed by Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell matters to all North Carolinians, including Triad residents.
Just look at a map: Johnston County is a crossroads in Eastern North Carolina. Chances are you’ve been through it and maybe stopped for a meal or fill-up on the way to the beach.
Interstate 40 runs through Johnston County. So does I-95. And N.C. 70. If you’re Hispanic, or look Hispanic, how would you feel passing through the jurisdiction of a sheriff who complains about “trashy” Mexicans and says illegal immigrants are inclined to “rape, rob and murder” Americans, as he did in comments to The News & Observer of Raleigh? Some people would feel, with good reason, that this sheriff may not be fair in the way he treats those who are different.
He assured otherwise in an apology he issued Sunday, after The News & Observer published its article.
“I always have and always will carry out the duties of the Office of Sheriff to protect all the people in Johnston County without regard to where someone is from or their citizenship status,” he said.
He should do more than that.
There’s no doubt, unfortunately, that many illegal immigrants do cause problems. Some drink and drive, and some commit other crimes. The sheriff should work with leaders in immigrant communities to find ways to correct dangerous behaviors. Crime prevention is an important tool for every law-enforcement agency in every community. Positive relations between police and public, even the immigrant public, can net good results.
But insulting statements about an entire people based on national origin, which Bizzell applied beyond immigration status, erode public confidence in a sheriff’s integrity. Johnston County can gain a reputation as a place that’s unfriendly to outsiders or people who could be mistaken for outsiders.
Bizzell said in his apology it wasn’t his intent to include “the legal and law-abiding Hispanic population” in his remarks. Maybe not. Was it his intent to create a hostile image of Johnston County? He did that, too.
óóóFrom Star-News of Wilmington, Sept. 6
A thorough housecleaning is needed to repair NC’s mental health care system
There’s only one way to fix something as broken as North Carolina’s mental health care system: tear it down and start over.
Extreme? Maybe. But the care of mentally ill and developmentally disabled people in this state is a basket case of extremes: extreme incompetence, extreme waste and, in the case of Cherry Hospital employees who couldn’t interrupt their card game to bother with a patient who died after sitting in a chair for 22 hours, extreme indifference.
Health and Human Services Secretary Dempsey Benton, appointed by Gov. Mike Easley to clean up the mess he and the Honorables helped create, has managed to bring some semblance of organization to the chaos. But his task is like that of the Little Dutch Boy, trying to stop a flood by plugging a few holes.
No, it’s time to stop tweaking and start shoveling.
Go agency by agency, institution by institution. Examine every program. Make all employees ó from the top administrators right down to the housekeeping crew ó reapply for their jobs. Put all contracts up for rebid. Make contractors and employees justify why taxpayers should rehire them.
Disruptive? Yes. And there are many dedicated employees in this historically underfunded and dysfunctional system, which imploded after the governor and Honorables adopted mental health “reform” several years ago. But patches aren’t working.
A logical place to start the purge would be at Cherry Hospital, followed by the other psychiatric hospitals. In addition to the aforementioned death, two Cherry employees were accused of beating a patient while administrators were busy trying to convince federal investigators that conditions were improving. That would be known as getting off on the wrong foot.
Not surprisingly, investigators are now recommending that Cherry lose federal funding. State taxpayers would have to pick up the tab to avoid throwing patients onto the street.
Don’t stop with the hospitals. Work all the way down to the local agencies such as Southeastern Center for Mental Health, where budget shortfalls already have cut services to clients and may require more. Among them: some children with developmental disabilities may not be able to attend day care centers designed to meet their needs.
The state’s mental health system has been allowed to disintegrate largely because the people who need its services ó the mentally ill and substance abusers, especially ó are often swept under the rug in our society.
But they are here. They are our neighbors, our sons and daughters, our siblings and our parents. And they deserve much better than the system North Carolina has patched together.

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