The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, July 9, 2014
Parade organizers made the right call
Mandan knows how to put on a good Fourth of July party. With Rodeo Days, Art in the Park and a road race, the community offers many ways to celebrate Independence Day.
Mother Nature had other plans this year, when stormy weather led to the cancellation of the parade.
Thousands of parade watchers, hundreds of floats and scores of volunteers were in place and ready on Friday morning. That led to much disappointment around the community when the news came that the parade was canceled.
In the past, parade organizers have delayed the parade until rain clears. At times, participants have marched right on through light rain. The deciding factor this year was lightning in the vicinity.
On the social media site where the organizers made their announcement, the people commenting, by and large, were understanding. A few said the parade organizers made the wrong decision.
We believe the organizers made the right call. Public safety must come first.
Police and organizers were in agreement on the decision. If the parade had been delayed, audience members likely would have stayed in the area and not sought shelter.
For those marching in the parade, there are no facilities in the gathering area that could have housed everyone.
If the parade had gone on and someone had been injured due to the storm or due to lightning, the community outcry would have been much louder. Although parade- and candy-loving children may have been disappointed, their parents are surely thankful the children are safe.
One parade organizer speculated that the last time the parade was canceled was in the 1970s. If that is accurate, two cancellations roughly 40 years apart is a good track record.
Even without the parade, Mandan put on a great Fourth of July celebration. By all accounts, Art in the Park, the road race, the rodeos and the fireworks were a success. An unofficial, miniature version of the parade commenced once the weather had cleared.
Mandan still put on a great party.
Parade organizers will surely want to reassess their contingency plans after this year's cancellation, but they made the right decision with public safety in mind.
Minot Daily News, Minot, July 9, 2014
Scrambling broadcasts unnecessary
Soon the days of Minot residents and members of the news media having access to police emergency broadcasts will be a thing of the past. The Minot Police Department this year plans to scramble all of its radio broadcasts.
As a news-gathering organization, the change is obviously a great concern. Newspapers and other media use the emergency broadcasts to monitor police calls, as well as fire and rescue calls. Having an emergency scanner in the newsroom is a tradition at newspaper newsrooms and other media locations. It's a quick, efficient way to monitor potentially important stories, and to help the media remain the eyes and ears of the community.
Minot Police Chief Jason Olson and other law enforcement officials have expressed concern that the broadcasts could be used by criminals to track police activity, and that personal information of anyone interacting with police officials could mistakenly be transmitted. While we don't doubt that there is potential for the criminal element to use police broadcasts to enhance their illegal doings, we question whether that potential is actually being realized.
There's no law that says the public must have access to police broadcasts, but North Dakota is a state that prides itself on having some of the best open records and open meetings laws in the country. This change to scramble emergency broadcasts contradicts the spirit of those laws, and that is of great concern to members of the media and it should be of great concern to residents as well.
The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, July 10, 2014
Dickinson police need to get it right
The Dickinson Trinity High School fire has been an extremely difficult situation for the community.
First the fire, next the news that it was arson and then charges against the principal, Thomas Sander.
There was more than a sense of betrayal.
Now with the dismissal of charges, the community is again looking for answers. School officials say their focus will be on rebuilding and getting back to normal. But the case won't go away.
Southwest District Judge William Herauf dismissed the case against Sander on Monday without prejudice, which means the state could still bring charges against him later. Prosecutors had filed a motion to drop the charges last week after Herauf tossed out much of the prosecution's case.
The judge ruled statements Sander made to police were improperly obtained.
Sander, 30, had pleaded not guilty to felony arson and endangerment by fire in the March 3 fire that forced the closure of Trinity High School.
Stark County State's Attorney Tom Henning said without the evidence, a conviction was doubtful. He said there's now time for more facts to come out.
Unfortunately, the case should never have reached this point.
Reading the court filings over Sander's questioning by Dickinson detectives leaves little doubt about why the judge ruled as he did. Trying to bully someone into a confession without reading their rights, responding to a request for an attorney or allowing them to leave is wrong.
Reading a suspect his Miranda rights should be a no-brainer. One might not like the requirement, but it's an established practice. Failure to do so brings results like the one in the Trinity case.
The Dickinson Police Department needs to review the case. It must be determined whether the officers lacked the needed training, ignored the law in their zeal for a confession or whether other factors were involved.
The botched investigation made a bad situation worse. Sander's life was turned upside down. His father moved to Dickinson to help him, causing him turmoil.
Students, families and the community are forced to come to their own conclusions, and not necessarily with all the facts.
The investigation needs to continue in a methodical manner. There's the reported note in which a student confesses that must be examined.
But most of all, everyone's rights need to be respected. And because someone was charged or might be charged in the future doesn't make that person guilty.
The Dickinson Police Department needs to get it right.