Thumbs up/down for Monday, Feb. 17, 2014

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Thumbs up to the Evansville Police Department. Police Chief Scott McElroy’s department is the smallest to earn accreditation through the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group. That’s no small achievement. It involved a three-year process and rewriting or revising 83 policies to meet 235 standards. It had to find more than 500 examples to prove that the department was following those standards. Then it had to convince an assessment team, during a three-day onsite review, that the department enjoys good interaction with the community and operates professionally while using the best policing practices. Accreditation should assure residents that the department, which has nine full-time and three part-time officers, provides topnotch service for their tax dollars. All involved deserve applause, including Mayor Sandy Decker and the city council for supporting the project.

Thumbs up a film series on the Civil Rights Movement. Credit the Rock County Historical Society for scheduling this series and UW-Rock County instructors Elizabeth Jozwiak and David McKay for overseeing discussions after each film. If you missed the first one last week, don’t hesitate to check out the next three, all on Wednesdays—“Slavery By Another Name” on March 12, “The Loving Story” on April 9 and “Freedom Riders” on May 14. The films and discussions will help people understand that issues of the past still influence the lives of African-Americans today. The series is being staged at the Helen Jeffris Wood Museum Center, 426 N. Jackson St., Janesville.

Thumbs down to unnecessary secrecy on UW records. It was good to see a controversial measure die a second time last week. It would have shielded UW-Madison research from public records requests. Credit Republican Rep. Steve Nass of Walworth County, chairman of the Assembly’s higher education committee, for saying he wouldn’t allow a vote on a larger bill before the public records language was deleted. As the Wisconsin State Journal reported, the lead author, Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin, agreed to do so before a public hearing proceeded. University officials want to keep research records secret until the work is published or patented. They claim this is essential if the UW is to be an economic engine. The officials say this protection is critical given a 2011 change in patent laws. But Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, pointed out that the UW doesn’t need such broad latitude when a balancing test allows the university to weigh the public interest in disclosure against the potential harm that could come from releasing such records.

Thumbs down driving without licenses. Gannett Wisconsin Media reports that Wisconsin convicted 14,000 people last year of driving with revoked licenses and more than 74,000 others of driving with suspended licenses. If that many were convicted, imagine how many people without licenses are behind the wheel, gambling that they won’t have accidents or get stopped for new traffic violations. Habitual offenders are most often the ones who have their licenses revoked. Driving after revocation can lead to jail time and fines of up to $2,500. Driving with a suspended license, however, isn’t a criminal offense and might cost you only $124. Many people with revoked or suspended licenses likely keep driving because they have no other reasonable way to reach work. Those with suspended licenses, however, likely see the potential fine as small and worth the risk so they drive out of convenience. This report should prompt legislators to consider beefing up state law so more poor drivers rethink this bad habit.

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