By Robert A. Vella

For democratic societies to function properly, a nation’s citizens must feel a certain amount of respect and trust for public institutions and officials.  This is especially true for local law enforcement agencies which are on the front lines of upholding the rule of law and ensuring the safety of the populace.  When cynicism rises too far, as is happening now across much of the western world, the fabric of society begins to slowly break down.  People start abandoning social norms and look for alternatives to serve their own individual interests.  If the problem is defiantly ignored by the established order, or is otherwise left unresolved, it eventually leads to either or both of two possible outcomes:  1) a brutal authoritarian takeover of government, or 2) a disastrous collapse of government which results in widespread societal anarchy.

In the U.S. today, we’re seeing evidence of both happening.  For local law enforcement, its disconnect with the people to whom it is tasked to serve primarily involves three related issues:  1) a worsening ethnic-racial divide, 2) an irrepressible religious/secular divide, and 3) an escalating economic divide between the very rich and everyone else.  Although these serious issues are longstanding, the overall cultural polarization in America they greatly impact has exacerbated markedly since Donald Trump became president in 2017.  In fact, he is deliberately encouraging it.  For municipal police and county sheriff departments, the problem is so acute that they are getting caught up in this divisive us-versus-them schism.  Recruiting is becoming increasingly problematic, and the composition of law enforcement personnel is shifting towards being exclusively white and conservative.  As this transformation continues, the larger distrust of America’s public institutions will only intensify.

Here’s more on this developing story plus today’s other news:

From:  Sheriff helped plot his own deputy’s killing over ‘racially offensive’ tape, prosecutors say

Granville County Sheriff Brindell Wilkins learned one of his deputies had a tape of him making “racially offensive” comments, prosecutors say. So the North Carolina lawman encouraged another man to kill the officer, according to a felony indictment revealed late Monday night.

“The only way you gonna stop him is kill him,” Wilkins allegedly told the would-be shooter in a 2014 recorded phone call about a plan to kill former deputy Joshua Freeman. The plot was not carried out.

Wilkins is charged with two felony counts of obstruction of justice charges for his failure to arrest the unnamed person or report the threat on Freeman’s life, and for also allegedly giving the man advice about how to get away with the killing.

Wilkins has been sheriff of the small county in northern North Carolina, where the biggest town is home to about 8,400 people, since 2009 and was most recently reelected in 2018. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, who brought the charges, told the News & Observer that Wilkins is still the sheriff.

From:  Police offer few details in wake of transgender woman found burned beyond recognition

Despite calls from the LGBT community for more information in the wake of the discovery of a black transgender woman burned beyond recognition in Florida earlier this month, authorities say they are reluctant to release details about the investigation into her death.

Police had to use dental records to identify 23-year-old Bee Love Slater after her body was discovered inside of an abandoned car in Clewiston, Florida, on Sept. 4.

Even though it’s been nearly two weeks since authorities made the gruesome discovery, the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office, which is leading the investigation, said it’s too early to say if her death can be classified as a hate crime.


At least 18 transgender people, including Slater, have been killed this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The group tracked 29 killings in 2018, the most it had ever recorded in a year.

From:  US police agencies having trouble hiring, keeping officers, according to a new survey

Police agencies across the country are having trouble keeping and hiring police officers, according to a new survey obtained by ABC News.

Produced by the Police Executive Research Forum, the survey shows a “triple threat” for police departments: there is a decrease in applications, early exits and higher rates of retirement.

Agencies participating in the survey reported that there has been a 63% decrease in applying to become a police officer. Departments are also having trouble hiring non-white/minority applicants the most, followed by female officers, according to the survey.

From:  8 Years of Trump Tax Returns Are Subpoenaed by Manhattan D.A.

State prosecutors in Manhattan have subpoenaed President Trump’s accounting firm to demand eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns, according to several people with knowledge of the matter.

The subpoena opens a new front in a wide-ranging effort to obtain copies of the president’s tax returns, which Mr. Trump initially said he would make public during the 2016 campaign but has since refused to disclose.

The subpoena was issued by the Manhattan district attorney’s office late last month, soon after it opened a criminal investigation into the role that the president and his family business played in hush-money payments made in the run-up to the election.

From:  Group sues Trump administration for info related ‘attempts to politicize NOAA’

A pro-democracy group sued the Trump administration Monday to force the release of public documents they believe will shed light on politicization of science at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Democracy Forward filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to compel the administration to release requested public documents related to the removal of Tim Gallaudet from his position as acting administrator of NOAA in February.

The group has raised concerns over Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision to remove Gallaudet from the acting post earlier this year. Gallaudet last December had told a science conference that President Trump had never asked to be briefed on climate-related matters by the agency.

From:  More than half of teens say they’re ‘afraid’ and ‘angry’ about climate change — and 1 in 4 of them are doing something about it

Here’s what else the study found:

  • 86% of teens believe human activity is causing the climate to change, compared to 79% of adults.
  • 29% of teens feel optimistic about the issue of climate change, compared to 25% of adults.
  • 15% of adults believe it’s too late to prevent the worst of climate change, compared to 11% of teens.
  • 74% of teens think the US government isn’t taking enough action on climate change, compared to 67% of adults
  • 81% of teens have heard little or nothing at all about the Green New Deal.

The study covered a random national sample of 2,293 adults age 18 and over as well as 629 teenagers ages 13-17.

Related stories:

Teen climate activist to urge climate action on Capitol Hill

Global warming: Earth had second-hottest summer on record

As Amazon Smolders, Indonesia Fires Choke the Other Side of the World

Amazon deforestation is driven by criminal networks, report finds

From:  Colorado becomes first state to ban barcodes for counting votes over security concerns

In recent years — after researchers have repeatedly demonstrated it’s possible to hack many voting machines in particular circumstances and the US intelligence community detailed Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — both government and industry leaders have reached a general consensus that the US needs to use paper ballots so that elections can be properly audited.

But some states have purchased voting machines that print out a paper receipt with either a QR (short for “quick response”) or a more traditional barcode — something a computer can read, but a human cannot — which can then be easily scanned and tallied to represent a voter’s choices.

But those codes are still controversial and experts warn that even though they’re on paper, elections still need to be audited before results are certified.

From:  Tunisia mogul Karoui, professor Saied reach presidential runoff: commission

Law professor Kais Saied and detained media mogul Nabil Karoui are set to advance to the next round of Tunisia’s presidential polls, the electoral board said Tuesday.


Both candidates — though very different — are seen as outsiders, drawing “anti-system” votes from an electorate disillusioned with the status quo.

Mistrust of the political establishment runs high in Tunisia, where unemployment is at 15 percent and the cost of living has risen by close to a third since 2016.

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