Summary of recent Tennessee newspaper editorials

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Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

July 1

Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel on cellphone search rulings:

In a unanimous decision issued last week, the U.S. Supreme Court strengthened privacy rights by ruling that police in most cases must obtain a search warrant before reviewing the data stored in cellphones.

The Tennessee Legislature, though, was a step ahead of the justices. A state law that takes effect today makes the same demand of Tennessee law enforcement agencies. Another law also requires a search warrant to obtain a cellphone's location information from telecommunications companies.

The state law and the Supreme Court decision that gives it additional heft provide important protections for anyone detained by police. The law should not place an extraordinary burden on law enforcement agencies because obtaining search warrants is as routine for them as reading Miranda rights to a suspect under arrest.

The Supreme Court has long held that police officers can remove items from a suspect's pockets without running afoul of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. Typically, police must obtain a warrant, based on probable cause that the person has committed a crime, before they can legally conduct a search.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court, said cellphones are different from items such as car keys, wallets, cigarettes or other items, including drugs, that police typically find when searching detainees. He acknowledged that cellphones have evolved into powerful computers that store huge amounts of personal data. "With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans the privacies of life," Roberts wrote.

While asserting that the ruling would affect law enforcement agencies, Roberts wrote, "Privacy comes at a cost."

Local law enforcement officials, however, said in the wake of the ruling that the cost would not be too dear. In fact, they have been planning to abide by Tennessee's new restriction since the law was passed in this year's legislative session.

Roberts noted that authorities can take steps to keep data from being erased remotely while waiting for a warrant. And the opinion contains an exception when police have a reasonable fear for their safety or the safety of the public.

Taken together, Tennessee's new statute and the Supreme Court decision ensure that privacy protections can keep up with technological innovations during the digital revolution.



July 1

The Post-Intelligencer, Paris, Tennessee, on Governor proposes mandatory cool-off:

In a report that should alarm everyone, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reached this conclusion:

Tennessee teenagers are using heroin and injecting other illicit drugs at twice the national average.

And that's not all. Many more of our youngsters, nearly one in five, pop pills for recreational use.

Drug usage grew dramatically over a five-year period, the 251-page Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Report said.

Conclusions are based on surveys of high school students about behaviors ranging from what foods they eat to how they drive.

The survey is taken every two years, The Tennessean in Nashville reported.

This one contacted 13,633 high school students from September 2012 to December 2013, when heroin was making a comeback nationally.

It found that 4.4 percent of Tennessee students reported ever having used heroin and 4.9 percent said they had used methamphetamines. Further, 4.7 percent in our state said they had injected illegal drugs, compared to a national average of 1.7 percent.

Heroin is easier to get than prescription opiates, a Nashville physician said: "The way it seems in Nashville, it's like ordering pizza."

Students tend to get their illegal drugs on campus from one another, the report said. One in four students said they had access to illegal drugs on school property.

A Nashville center that aids at-risk youth attributed the increase to the state's slow recovery from the recession.

When parents must work extra jobs, employment opportunities for teenagers dry up and young people have too much idle time and little supervision.

So does it all boil down to poverty? That's an overstatement, but it's obvious that the economy plays a large role.


June 28

The Tennessean, Nashville, Tennessee, on domestic violence:

As the case of alleged domestic assault against prominent contractor David A. Chase continues to move through the Davidson County justice system, we are left to wonder whether the larger message is being ignored by the very individuals who need to hear it the most.

The message is that in Davidson County and throughout Tennessee, domestic violence is not being taken seriously enough. Yes, there are vocal proponents who are trying to change that, but it seems there are just as many, perhaps more, in positions of authority who are happy with the status quo.

We have only to look at official crime statistics to be reminded of the status quo: Last year, Tennessee ranked No. 6 among states for highest rate of murder of women in domestic violence situations.

Knowing these numbers, Nashville leaders presented recommendations for improving response to domestic violence in the city's justice and law enforcement system, developed from a task force's domestic violence safety and accountability assessment. One of the main problems identified at that announcement was that more than 40 percent of domestic violence suspects were being released by night court commissioners before their statutory 12-hour hold was fulfilled.

So, when General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland earlier this month waived a 12-hour hold based on a phone conversation with the suspect's attorney and, according to police, the suspect made a second assault on the same woman within a matter of hours, it should be very clear why many, including Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson, were upset.

Instead, there has been a backlash, especially in the legal community, suggesting this case has been sensationalized and is little more than a rush to judgment. In fact, news media, Chief Anderson and other leaders have carefully avoided such declarations.

It is emblematic of our state's and our community's long tolerance of domestic abuse that there still are those who would prefer to keep it out of the public eye — and that is the primary reason why it has become such a pervasive crime here.

It may be that the new agreement signed by all 11 Davidson County General Sessions judges requiring domestic cases to be determined by the three judges assigned to domestic cases will be a positive start. But there needs to be a firm commitment from across the legal community and the public that suspected domestic abusers are not someone to be winked at and sent on their way.


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