The winners and the losers

Published: Saturday, May 4 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

West Valley City police investigate the scene of a shooting.

Chuck Wing, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

Winner: The whole concept of a law that makes it a crime to record sound or images from a private livestock or poultry operation is a big loser, but the winner this week was Judge Daniel Bertch, who dismissed a case against a Utah woman who shot such footage from a public easement. Amy Meyer claimed she was about 100 feet away from the Dale T. Smith and Sons Meat Packing Co. in Draper when she was approached by a company official telling her it was illegal to take such footage without permission from the company's owner. Last year, state lawmakers made it a crime to film such operations without permission, worrying that animal-rights groups would become aggressive in attempts to publicize alleged abuses. No one has suggested the packing company violated any laws. But while trespassing is one thing, the fact someone could be charged for recording what they can see from a public road ought to give everyone pause.

Loser: The most disturbing local story this week came out of Taylorsville, where a 17-year-old soccer player became upset and punched a referee in the head. That referee, 46-year-old Riccardo Portillo, remains hospitalized in critical condition in a coma. Tensions can run high in any athletic contests, and people often disagree over rules and penalties, but physical abuse cannot be tolerated. As this newspaper has reported previously, referees at youth games often have to endure taunts as well as verbal and physical abuse. When emotions subside, regrets often follow. We wish Portillo a quick recovery and hope this case stands as a grim warning for any athlete who becomes upset during a future game.

Loser: Rigid rules seldom serve their intended purpose. That was driven home this week in Florida, where police are contemplating felony charges against a 16-year-old girl who conducted an ad hoc science experiment that exploded on school grounds. No one was hurt, and the explosion was reported as a pop similar to what a firecracker would make. The girl reportedly was surprised by the reaction. Reports say she otherwise is a good student with no record of trouble. But the school district says rules are rules, and the student must be expelled. If the facts have been correctly reported, it makes little sense to equate this incident with more serious attempts to disrupt or cause injury.

Loser: The West Valley City police department has some major problems on its hands. This week, the county district attorney's office filed motions to have 26 more narcotics cases dismissed as a result of insufficient evidence and alleged police corruption. The total number of dismissed cases related to this problem is now 124. Nine officers have been placed on leave. City officials have identified possible problems with missing drugs and money, officers taking "trophies, trinkets or souvenirs" from drug-related crime scenes, the use of GPS trackers without first securing a warrant, improper use of confidential informants, improper handling of evidence within the unit, and officers taking small amounts of cash and other items from seized vehicles. As a result, a lot of bad guys probably are still on the streets, and public confidence has been compromised.

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