Ferguson, Iowa City more different than similar

Ferguson, Iowa City more different than similar

Gazette Column
Disproportionate contact is symptom of bias, not a diagnosis When officials in Ferguson, Mo. held a news conference to respond to scathing federal allegations of racism and a public safety system driven by profit, the police chief didn’t appear and the mayor entertained no questions. That visual alone should serve as a major clue the situation in the St. Louis suburb is quite different from concerns expressed in Iowa City and other local municipalities. Still, it is difficult not to dwell on the similarities. In its investigation into the Ferguson Police Department, the U.S. Department of Justice reported disproportionate law enforcement contact with African Americans: “Data collected by the Ferguson Police Department from 2012 to 2014 shows that African Americans account for 85 percent of vehicle stops, 90 percent of…
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Johnson County case highlights need for broader mental health discussions

Johnson County case highlights need for broader mental health discussions

Gazette Column
A few days ago, I received a Twitter message from a Chicago-area man hoping to aide his son, held by Johnson County since late 2012 on $1 million bond. Sending the message was Joseph Jason, and his son, Daniel Jason, is a 29-year-old with a neurodevelopment disorder commonly known as Asperger Syndrome. Like many with this syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum, Daniel is high-functioning. Joseph is quick to point to a lack of physical violence by his son, and equally as quick to brush aside the terror that was inflicted. [caption id="attachment_244" align="alignright" width="480"] Daniel Jason (Source: Johnson County)[/caption] Daniel was recently found guilty on three felony counts related to an obsession with a former girlfriend, and was labeled a habitual offender last Friday. The latter means that…
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The caucus countdown

The caucus countdown

Gazette Column
It is probably what most people think of — or at least what most people thought of eight years ago — when they consider the Iowa caucus. A handful of people are gathered around a conference table at the local library. There are a few handouts on the table top, flanked by packages of cookies. Hopes and concerns about the future of the country are on display, but the real tension in the room centers around speculation of a presumptive Democratic nominee and how such a situation could chill certain discussions in the Hawkeye State and beyond. “A lot of people are really eager to avoid a coronation of Hillary (Clinton) or another (Ralph) Nader fiasco,” said Jeffrey Cox, who actively has been gathering signatures to persuade Sen. Bernie Sanders,…
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Discretion isn’t carte blanche

Discretion isn’t carte blanche

Gazette Column
Recently, I was reminded why the wheels of the private sector and government spin at different speeds. As aggravating and frustrating as the slow turn of government wheels can be, their reduced pace allows for thoughtful discussion and input from all facets of society, which will ultimately need to live and function under the laws and policies. Because we understand the system to be deliberate and, at times, imperfect, society has tolerated and even encouraged public servants to use discretion when fulfilling their duties. This is especially true at all levels of the justice system because of the unequaled impact those officials have on individuals and communities. Within our communities, we want the public servants closest to the particulars of any given situation or incident to use their best judgment…
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