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OPINION | MASTERSON ONLINE: State can do better

by Mike Masterson | May 29, 2021 at 8:15 a.m.

I thought you might find it as unfortunate yet interesting as I do that our state unfortunately fared poorly when compared with the others in personal finance website WalletHub's latest report and its 2021 findings into the "Best and Worst States to be a Police Officer."

The study considered law enforcement officers to be police, sheriff's department patrol officers, detectives and criminal investigators.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia were compared across 30 indicators of "police friendliness." The data collected ranges from the median income for law enforcement officers to police deaths per 1,000 officers, and police protection expenses per capita. A score of one is best.

When it comes to median income for law enforcement officers adjusted for cost of living, Arkansas ranks 49th. We are in 48th place both in police deaths per 1,000 officers and state and local police-protection expenses per capita.

Our state ranked 47th in the violent crime rate, 33rd in the number of law enforcement officers per capita, and 24th in the percentage of homicide cases solved.

Clearly we of the Natural State have room to improve in the ways we care for our own who serve and protect.

About the bridge

OK, let me get this straight. That potentially disastrous fracture in a support beam on the Hernando de Soto bridge across the Mississippi River along Interstate 40 at Memphis was initially spotted by an inspection drone in 2019 and again in 2020, as that crack was growing to finally separate the beam?

And apparently a kayaker beneath the bridge captured this same crack on film in 2016.

Oh, really? And nothing was said or done either time to sound the alarm over this major east-west crossing some 19,500 feet long that supports 60,000 trucks and cars daily?

Folks just can't make this stuff up. Monty Frazier, the lead bridge inspector our state relied upon to find and report such potential catastrophes has since been deservedly fired. Fine and dandy.

But is there anything besides losing his paycheck for a job not done that we can do to emphasize to future inspectors just how serious this type of repeated failure is?

It's downright chilling to imagine the possibility if this bridge, which soars some 108 feet above the river, might have collapsed, say in 2027, because nothing was done in 2016, 2019 or 2020 to report and repair the critical separation even after it had been documented by inspection photographs.

A disaster under such circumstances would have been beyond criminal.

And don't bother telling me the odds were low of something like that occurring with such a split, not when the memories of the 1-40 bridge collapse near Webbers Falls, Okla., in 2002 remain fresh even 19 years later.

All it took to bring down portions of that 589-foot span and kill 14 motorists while injuring 11, was a wayward barge slamming into a support pier.

Today, no one can say how long it will take to make lasting repairs at Memphis, which necessitates diverting traffic to the even older I-55 bridge south of I-40.

That means lengthy inconvenience for hundreds of thousands of east-west travelers likely lasting months. But thanks to this crucial fracture finally being addressed, an eventual calamity may well have been avoided.

Second Amendment wisdom

Social media aficionado Henry P. McIntosh IV published a comment about our Second Amendment the other day offered from the perspective of an imagined hardened criminal.

The undeniable logic and common sense struck me as worth repeating for you:

"I am a hardened criminal with a rap sheet as long as your arms held outstretched. I do not care about your gun laws because I do not buy guns in a firearm store. Background checks do not faze me in the least. If you focus your attention on law-abiding citizens and make it tougher on them to own weapons for their protection or for hunting, that is music to my ears. Keep taking guns away from good citizens, that is exactly what I want."

McIntosh went on to rhetorically ask, should an upstanding citizen get involved in a fender bender, if you take away his or her car. Then why take guns away from hunters and people looking to protect themselves from criminals?

To such insight I would add: What do our officials elected to serve us often resort to for their own personal protection from the public? Armed security details and bodyguards, of course.

Dilly from Dill's

I always enjoy reading the lengthy Police Log in the Harrison Daily Times. The page is filled with everything from heartbreak to humor.

For instance, a recent item told of a man who had entered the popular Dill's deli in town and wound up stealing food from the salad bar.

Care to guess what it was that tickled his fancy? Wait for it ...

Appropriately enough, he heisted a dill pickle, which landed him in the paper.

Oh my, can't we have some fun with this: "Caper sours when thief absconds with a pickle."

Or "Salad bar thief at Dill's finds himself in a dilly of a pickle."

And finally (mercifully): "Pickle goes missing from Dill's."

Free CD from me

A few years back several friends encouraged me to put 14 of my timeless columns on CD. So I made several visits to a recording studio in Fayetteville. I initially offered the results for sale at a reasonable price.

Yesterday I noticed I still have a box of them in the closet. So have I got a deal for my readers.

I will send you a CD called "Rhythms of Life from a Southern Journalist" for free, as in no charge. Those columns include columns titled "Our Lives in Chapters," "White River Heroes," "Damaged by Doo-Wop" and "The Final Leaf."

All I require is enough to cover handling and mailing to you, which I believe $5 should cover.

If interested (and if you still have a CD player in your home or car) mail me at 1002 West Bunn Ave., Harrison, AR 72601. I'll have one shipped within a couple of days. Don't forget your return address.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected]

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