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State police should not be cowboysJust when...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

State police should not be cowboys

Just when we thought it couldn't get any worse, audits on the state police probe on The Block revealed much more money was wasted than was originally thought.

Evidently the first figures were inaccurate because most of the missing funds were simply not accounted for.

According to The Baltimore Sun, "the 'vast majority' of 535 expense forms submitted by the 18 undercover officers in the investigation lacked proper authorization, and many were found to have forged signatures."

In other words, the money was stolen.

It's apparently not enough that we send law enforcement offices with minimal judgment abilities into life and death situations. Now we're rewarding them with a blank check to spend on sex and "amusements."

Officers spent $34,921 on drugs, about one-third of which resulted in charges that had to be dropped because of unethical behavior on the part of a trooper.

At the same time, $98,085 was spent on "investigative expenses," in the form of drinks and tips, most of which was unauthorized.

Face facts. These men weren't policing The Block. They were patronizing it, and at public expense.

These guys must really believe what they see in the movies. They must believe they are entitled to a cowboy mentality and exemption from public scrutiny. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The public servant who serves with a gun in his hand should be the first, not the last, to be called to account for his every move.

If he can't understand and respect that premise, he should find another line of work.

Could it be that so much police time is spent engaged in revenue collecting activities, such as operating speed traps, that law enforcement agencies have lost sight of their real purpose?

That is to protect and serve, not to entrap and intimidate.

How many more of these outrageous fiascoes will it take before the taxpayers refuse to continue footing the bill?

Frank W. Soltis

Fallston

'Hogwash' worked

There is a problem in America today.

Every day as I read the paper or watch the news I see the streets get more dangerous as another of the people we are supposed to look up to gets caught stealing or killing or feeding a drug habit by doing another "just say no" commercial.

I also hear everyone saying, "It was never like this when I grew up."

Well, if you grew up during the 1960s and 1970s, like I did, you're right. It was never like this. And there is a simple reason.

Back then, we learned a tough lesson: There are no easy answers. Crime can't be eliminated through get-tough policies. It can only be solved by addressing the root causes of the problem -- poverty, hopelessness, poor education, etc.

All the things now dismissed as "liberal hogwash" did what none of the easy answers has done: They worked.

Poverty was well on the way to being eliminated, and poor people felt a sense of hope for the future.

The people we looked up to had a sense of responsibility that lasted after the TV cameras were turned off.

Sure, there was a great deal of resistance from some elements who felt that new rights shouldn't be given to black people or women or anyone, for that matter.

But our political leaders were guided by a sense of right and wrong, not public opinion polls.

Although the right wing in this country tried as hard as it could to discredit Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society," most people were content to reap the benefits both socially and economically. We did feel safe and proud to be American.

William M. Smith

Baltimore

Church and state

Despite the intent of separation of church and state, the Catholic bishops in this country politically have expressed their objection to the funding of abortion and contraception in a future national health care program on the pretext of taxpaying frugality.

But if they are successful at the political expense of others, this really will be so pro Deo et ecclesia.

R. D. Reese

Baltimore

Failed homes create failures in school

Every time I read about some new development in the area of education, I become annoyed all over again at state and local leaders' persistent avoidance of the basic reason for our schools' continuing failure to produce decently educated graduates.

The reason is the same one that is behind our rising crime rate and our unbridled trend toward vulgar commercialization of everything from a papal visit through O. J. Simpson's murder accusation to hemorrhoids: With the widespread dissolution of family structure and function, our culture is breaking down.

Despite the evolution of American public education from the one-room schoolhouse to the complex systems of today, a "school" is still based on the idea that many students may, by listening, learn from one teacher at the same time.

This ancient concept presumes that the "students" possess habits of behavior that, 1., will allow the "teacher" to concentrate on the subject at hand and to express thoughts in an orderly, timely fashion, and 2., will permit "students" to focus on those thoughts.

The manners required for the above interaction to take place are fairly complicated but essentially involve quiet, restrained speech, respect for a speaker, submission to direction, and -- very important -- some appreciation for the purpose of the gathering.

Well, forget that.

Have you been in a public high school classroom lately? At least a third, if not two-thirds, of the young people pile noisily into a room, a few consistently late, greeting the teacher, if at all, with a demand for something. (I have to go to the bathroom. Why did you give me a D? I don't want to do this assignment; give me something easier to do.)

Or they'll turn around and, with no word at all, go right back out for many minutes, interrupt class when they return and be highly indignant if they are reprimanded.

They will pick up anything in a classroom, even on a teacher's desk, take it, break it, mark on it, whatever, and then be amazed and angry that the teacher expressed displeasure.

It is as if they had no idea at all about why they are expected to come to a place like this, and certainly no responsibility for what becomes of them while they are here.

We educators are just wasting their time, preventing them from spending all their time at their minimum-wage jobs.

Many have no plans ever to leave home.

Of course, not all young people are like this. A lot of them have very good manners, hearts and minds.

But an enormous number behave abominably, whether from actual ill will or mere lack of home training.

Why do you think public high schools today must hire security guards?

To keep students from leaving when they are not supposed to. To keep strangers out.

To keep students from bringing weapons to school. To catch vandals and thieves. To break up fights.

To chase the ever-present hallway denizens back into class. To baby sit those whose behavior is so disruptive that a teacher has risked his or her good standing with the school administration by asking for their removal.

I am naturally pleased that Congress is considering passage of a law requiring that a student who brings a weapon to school be "expelled." Just so you know, however, let me explain that in the county where I teach, a school principal is not likely to punish a student for anything unless someone (teacher, security guard) can "prove" he did it.

If guilt is established and detention or suspension is too light, the principal may seek to expel by going through one or more hearings with the school board.

If the board grants him permission to expel a student, the principal must then find another school in the county which will agree to take the student. If the student is expelled from this school and no other will take him, he returns to his home school anyway.

So much for expulsion. After all, everyone has a right to an education, hmm?

Actually, I believe that everyone should have a right to an opportunity for an education. But that opportunity should be considered forfeited if one cannot cooperate adequately with a school's efforts.

No one, however, can guarantee that you will become educated. You have to get that for yourself . . .

Marie B. Armstrong

Pasadena

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