Madison Daily Leader, Dec. 2

Private plane crashes need to be reduced

Airplane crashes are relatively rare, but attention needs to be given to reduce general aviation crashes to a much lower level.

Nine family members of an Idaho family were killed near Chamberlain Saturday in a private plane crash. Three people were killed Sunday when a private plane crashed near San Antonio, Texas.

Commercial airplane travel is incredibly safe, with a fatality occurring only about once every four million flights. But general aviation (noncommercial) fatal crashes are more common. In fact, about 97% of all fatal crashes are in general aviation.

According to ABC News, there are about five private plane crashes each day in the United States, although not all involve fatalities. Nevertheless, about 500 people are killed each year in private plane crashes.

The National Transportation Safety Board has placed improvement of general aviation safety on its “most wanted” list.

There are many factors that contribute to private plane accidents, including pilot training, weather, airplane inspections, miscommunication and others.

We recognize that putting the same restrictions on private flying that is in place for commercial flying would essentially end most private flying. But we do believe safety can be improved dramatically and still allow hobby and private flying to take place.

Such improvements will need to come from both regulators and private pilots themselves. Federal rules can be strengthened, and pilot compliance should be improved. It can’t happen overnight, but it needs to start happening right away.

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Aberdeen American News, Nov. 30

Battle against meth will take more than marketing

Meth. We’re on it.

So says a South Dakota advertising campaign against the rising use of methamphetamine in our state.

That message went, well, let’s call it spiral viral. It not only went viral nationally on social media, but spiraled into an ad campaign shown on national TV and featured on talk radio and in newspapers far and wide.

It hit its mark by generating discussion and publicity beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. If the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity is true, well ... this is off the charts.

Now, for the bad news. Our state has been mocked to death over this campaign.

We have become the butt of jokes from our neighboring states, nationally known talk show hosts and everyone on the internet who has an opinion — which is everyone on the internet. And not for the first time. You might remember the “Don’t Jerk and Drive” campaign from a few years back about safe driving on snowy roads. It was met with a similar reception. The state might be getting a little too cute (if that’s the right word) with the message it’s sending out.

But there’s nothing cute about methamphetamine addiction or other forms of substance abuse. So let’s hope the message is not lost in the avalanche of jokes.

Drug abuse not only hurts the abuser, but deeply shakes those around the abuser. And it leads to just crimes, but violent crimes.

And there is more bad news — this is more stinging than some criticism. We, the taxpayers of this state, paid $1.4 million for this campaign, which was designed by an out-of-state agency.

That $1.4 million pill would have been easier to swallow had it been paid to an in-state marketing firm. Especially during this holiday season when we would like all of our residents to shop locally.

But before we even opened up state coffers to start such a campaign, shouldn’t we have asked ourselves a critical question or two? Like is this meth campaign worth it?

It raises awareness of a problem that everyone already knew was a problem. But it doesn’t come with any new solutions.

We are all supposed to be “on” the problem, but how do we do that without a plan of attack?

Maybe we should have spent the $1.4 million on formulating a plan of attack. Get some of the smartest people in the state and most knowledgeable people about the meth problem together. Let them formulate a plan and take it to our communities.

Or perhaps it could have gone to agencies that provide badly needed addiction services.

Without question, the ad campaign is well-intentioned. And the expenditure shows the state is serious about the methamphetamine epidemic. Those are the positives regardless of the campaign’s success or reception, and they should be noted.

South Dakota has a meth crisis that affects every community in the state, Gov. Kristi Noem has said. Meth accounted for more than 3,600 statewide arrests in 2018. About one-third of the people we have locked up in this state are incarcerated because of drugs.

So far, Noem said the ad campaign has achieved desired results. People are definitely talking about meth and South Dakota, and the campaign has survived several national news cycles.

Also, Noem has pointed out the state’s new OnMeth.com website has been visited by thousands of South Dakotans. The site has a “get involved” section — clicked on by many, according to Noem — that suggests practical ways to combat meth in your community.

The website also lists treatment resources.

We have a long battle ahead of us against meth and other opioids. There are no easy answers or quick fixes via ad campaigns or more meetings.

A recent Los Angeles Times story reported that South Dakota should forget the ridicule over its campaign and focus on changing a drug law:

“South Dakota is the only state that classifies ingestion of illegal substances as a felony, a hard-line approach that has widely been shown to make it harder to break the cycle of addiction.

“Even if a user manages to go clean, a felony conviction makes it more difficult to find a job, especially one with health insurance, increasing the chances of a relapse,” according to the story.

The law in effect criminalizes addiction, said Libby Skarin, policy director for South Dakota’s American Civil Liberties Union.

Other leaders in South Dakota think such watering down of the state’s drug laws would be disastrous. They say changing ingestion to a misdemeanor would create problems, such as making prosecutions more difficult.

Regardless of your stand on the changes to laws or the campaign, let this be your takeaway: We need an aggressive assault against meth, opioids and other harmful drugs on all fronts. And then we must take that fight to our communities to battle drug abuse.

Together.

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Black Hills Pioneer, Spearfish, Nov. 16

Law enforcement officers should be exempt from Marsy’s Law

In 2016, South Dakota voters approved Constitutional Amendment S, also known as The South Dakota Marsy’s Law Crime Victim Rights Amendment, by about 60% to 40%.

The intent of the bill was to protect victims of crimes by expanding their rights of privacy, being informed of the judicial process, among others.

However, it proved to have unintended consequences that were immediate and hard-hitting. Even car insurance companies trying to settle claims for vehicle accidents were stymied in obtaining information because the knee-jerk reaction from law enforcement was to withhold all information about victims of crimes.

Fortunately, then-Attorney General Marty Jackley issued an opinion stating that victims of crimes needed to opt into the law rather than be automatically enrolled into it.

In June 2018, Constitutional Amendment Y guaranteed these changes as it was approved by nearly 80% of the voters.

But there is still one glaring loophole that needs to be closed.

Law enforcement officers, who in the line of duty, claim to be victims of crimes, or have taken actions that may be questioned regarding justification may opt into Marsy’s Law and have their names withheld from release.

This should not be the case.

Law enforcement officers have an all too often thankless job — long days, dangerous work, and being forced to interact with society’s problems. We thank all of our officers for their work and dedication to our citizens and their efforts to make our communities a better place to live.

Since Marsy’s Law was implemented in South Dakota, several law enforcement officers have opted into its protection after being involved in on-duty shootings. Most recently, two Sioux Falls police officers opted into Marsy’s Law after they were involved in an Oct. 6 shooting. The South Dakota Attorney General’s Office determined that both Officer 1 and Officer 2, as listed in the report, were justified in their actions — only Officer 2 fired his duty weapon striking Trent Wagner three times after he pointed a revolver at them and fired a single shot.

Pulling the trigger to protect yourself or others should not be taken lightly. That goes for police officers or a member of the public. The person who fires that shot needs to own it — that includes whether the bullet hits its intended target or not.

Law enforcement officers should be held to the highest standard. And that standard, when firing their weapons in the line of duty, should be mandatory identification.

Our state already has a fantastic, independent investigation system in place for officer-involved shootings. Within 30 days, the Attorney General’s Office releases a report on the shootings following an investigation by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation. In that report includes officer statements, public statements, toxicology reports on by the suspects and officers, inventories of weapons and ammunition — both expended and live rounds — and more. What’s needed in that report, is the identity of officers involved.

This is a direct nod to the transparency in government, accountability, and the public’s right to know information about public servants actions while doing the public’s work.

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