by U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom

A policeman’s life was never easy – and it’s harder now.

Time magazine described it well recently in an article called “What It’s Like Being a Cop Now.” The article said: “There are some 680,000 sworn police officers in the U.S. And in the past 12 months every one of them has had to answer in one way or another for the actions of colleagues they will never meet except on the screens running the latest viral incident.”

Law enforcement officers don’t have the luxury of being like everybody else.

Nobody pulls out a cell phone and posts a video on the Internet of you and me turning in anything less than perfect performance at our jobs. We aren’t responsible for life and death decisions. We don’t have to respond to every call for help, and nobody holds a news conference to demand we explain why we used the stun gun, the hand cuffs or the service revolver we carry on our belts.

Most of us would quit a job that routinely required us to chase a burglar down a dark alley, stop an angry husband from beating his wife or put up with a stranger’s drunken tirade.

In recent months, we’ve seen a series of tragedies in cities across the country that has turned our attention to the devastating consequences when police are not trusted and respected in the communities they serve. Those of us in law enforcement have a lot of work to do to restore that trust. I hope that is clear to every one of us, from the rookies on the streets to the chiefs behind their desks.

At the same time, I want everyone to remember that there is no question we need the police in our communities. They ensure our safety by patrolling our neighborhoods, defending the rights of victims and deterring crimes. They are our first responders in many emergency situations. They are role models for our young people. The overwhelming majority of women and men who police our streets do their jobs with honor, pride and distinction.

We have every right to hold our law enforcement officers to the highest standards of conduct, of course. At the same time, I hope we remember to give them credit when they are brave, honest and patient while performing a difficult job in even more difficult circumstances.

Barry Grissom is the U.S. attorney for the District of Kansas.

Views opinion column
by Murrel Bland

Doug Bach said he is excited about going to work each day at the Unified Government.

Bach spoke Friday, Aug. 21, at the monthly Congressional Forum luncheon to about 50 members of the Kansas City, Kan., Area Chamber of Commerce at the Reardon Convention Center. He said despite problems and challenges of managing a county of more than 161,000 people, he truly enjoys his job.

The Unified Commission chose Bach as county administrator about 15 months ago following the retirement of Dennis Hays. Bach came to City Hall in 1991 as a budget analyst. Later he was promoted to director of purchasing and then, in 2003, became deputy county administrator.

Bach has a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and public administration from Ft. Hays University. He also studied community planning at Kansas State University, Manhattan.

The Unified Commission recently approved the budget for 2016. Bach said that because the assessed valuation of property has increased, it will be possible to do some things to improve the county that weren’t possible in past years. And he said this will be done without increasing the mill rate. What that means for most taxpayers is no increase compared to 2015 tax bills.

The On Goal group, the organization that is developing the soccer complex, has helped with the budget, Bach said. Part of On Goal’s revised development agreement included a $9.5 million check to cover land acquisition expenses provided by the Unified Government. Bach said that this money from On Goal will be used to augment fund balances. This is reserve money, similar to a savings account. The higher these reserves, the lower the cost of borrowing when the Unified Government seeks bonds to pay for such things as street improvements and new equipment.

Bach said next year’s budget includes needed improvements in public safety and parks and recreation. Employees will receive raises; the Unified Government has more than 2,000 employees.

The population of Wyandotte County has shown about a 4,000-person increase since 2010, according to Bach. That reverses a 40-year trend and is a move in the right direction.

There is also progress in another area when you look at census information for the county–outmigration has slowed. Based on census information for the period from July 2013 to July 2014, only 373 more people left Wyandotte County than moved in. Population has grown because there have been about two births for every death.

Hays delayed the appointment of certain key staff persons because he knew he was going to retire. Among the key appointments that Bach has made were Terry Ziegler, police chief; Mike Tobin, director of public works; and two assistant county administrators–Joe Connor and Melissa Mundt.

Bach also said the Unified Government is encouraging new residential development. He cited the new Village West market-rate apartments that have been quite successful. The Unified Commission approved the waving of sewer hook-up and building permit fees in an effort to help spur single-family housing.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.

Opinion column: Window on the West

by Mary Rupert

The Unified Government Commission is poised to discuss the $250,000 cost of the mayor’s and officials’ bodyguards at a closed meeting on Thursday at City Hall.

The topic came up earlier during a UG budget session on July 20. The Aug. 27 meeting where security will be discussed is a closed one at 5 p.m. The regular UG meeting starts at 7 p.m. Aug. 27.

The Wyandotte Daily has asked why this meeting is closed, as it concerns elected officials and is about how much money is spent. UG Attorney Jody Boeding said there is an exception in the open meetings laws for topics about security.

When Police Chief Terry Zeigler was discussing the Police Department budget on July 20 at a budget meeting, Commissioner Mike Kane brought up the topic of the mayor’s bodyguards.

Zeigler said, in answer to a question, that this security detail costs about $250,000 a year with salaries, benefits, vehicle and overtime. Although it was said to be available for commissioners, some commissioners said they have not been using security when they go places. The detail also is available for other UG officials.

“Are you aware of any serious threats against the mayor?” Commissioner Kane asked at the July 20 budget meeting.

“Any elected official this day and age has the potential to be involved in a violent encounter,” Zeigler said. He cited incidents in other cities where some elected boards have been targeted by persons who walk in with guns.

So far, no one has publicly cited any direct physical threats to the mayor.

“I am aware of incidents on the ninth floor where things got out of hand with citizens getting on ninth floor and it would have been nice to have an officer there on hand to intervene,” Zeigler said at the July 20 meeting.

Currently, there is an officer now posted on the ninth floor of City Hall, which is where the mayor’s and commissioners’ offices are located.

After Mayor Mark Holland made a speech at the NCLR convention in Kansas City, Mo., his remarks were picked up by white supremacists who criticized him widely in messages circulated on the Internet, leading to a lot of critical email and messages being received by his office.

Kane, however, said that he views the bodyguards as mostly unnecessary, perhaps valuable on the ninth floor and at the commission meetings, but he questioned some other places.

“It’s frustrating that the mayor goes to soccer games, and takes a detailed person with him, Sporting KC. I think that’s unnecessary,” Commissioner Kane said.

“He takes them to church on Sunday, that’s frustrating,” Commissioner Kane said. “I think there’s no need.

“And the icing on the cake is, I don’t go down to the bar very often after the commission meetings, but the mayor takes the security guard down there with him,” Commissioner Kane said. “These are things we need to look at, that we need to re-evaluate, and perhaps even hire this outside. At $250,000 that’s a lot of money, we’re short-handed, that leaves us two officers short. I believe there’s other businesses in town that could do this at a cheaper price, and I think people need to know that we waste a lot of money.”

The Kansas City, Mo., mayor has bodyguards, according to some Wyandotte County officials. The Topeka, Kan., mayor and council does not have bodyguards, according to a spokesman.

Some of the mid- to smaller-sized cities do not have bodyguards specifically assigned to public officials, but will assign a person from the police department from time to time if they feel there is a need.

Security could be handled in a variety of different ways, some less expensive than others. My opinion is this discussion of it and its costs should be in public.

To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email maryr@wyandottepublishing.com.