Thumbs up to the Pasco City Council

December 17, 2012 

For taking a step closer to merging its emergency dispatch communications with a communitywide system.

Last week, the council reviewed draft of an agreement that would set Pasco, Kennewick, Richland and Benton and Franklin counties on the path toward a regional communications center.

A consultant's study suggested that by joining the dispatch centers, local governments could save thousands of dollars and improve services.

The agreement has to be approved by all three cities and both counties but that shouldn't be an obstacle.

Cheaper and better is a combination that's not hard to sell.

Head in the sand

Thumbs down to the Boy Scouts of America for a boneheaded decision that made it easier for pedophiles to victimize children.

In the late 1980s, youth organizations began conducting criminal background checks of volunteers and staff members to combat sexual abuse of children.

Big Brothers Big Sisters ordered the checks for all volunteers starting in 1986. Boys and Girls Clubs of America recommended their use the same year, The Los Angeles Times recently reported.

But scouting officials argued that background checks would cost too much, scare away volunteers and provide a false sense of security.

They successfully lobbied to kill state legislation that would have mandated FBI fingerprint screening.

Scaring away volunteers who are afraid of what a background check might reveal ought to be a goal of any agency serving youth, rather than an outcome to avoid.

The result, according to the Times' investigation: The Boy Scouts let in hundreds of men with criminal histories of child molestation, many of whom went on to abuse more children.

Scouting stuck to its policy against requiring criminal background checks for 22 years -- despite calls from parents and staff who said its vetting system didn't work.

In 1989, a Scout committee chairman in St. Paul, Minn., decried the organization's "half-hearted" screening in a letter to headquarters.

"BSA is only creating an illusion of performing what they claim," K. Russell Sias wrote to Scout Chief Executive Ben Love.

"It becomes quite clear that BSA is more concerned in 'passing the buck' than in accepting responsibility for those who are its adult leaders."

From the time national background checks became widely available in 1985 until 1991 -- when the detailed files on sexual abuse obtained by The Times end -- the Boy Scouts admitted more than 230 men with previous arrests or convictions for sex crimes against children, the newspaper found. The men were accused of molesting nearly 400 boys while in Scouting.

That Scout officials were forewarned and still failed to act is an outrage that will take the organization a long time to live down.

Little brother is watched

Thumbs down to the technology sector for failing to ensure the privacy of young consumers is adequately protected.

The government is investigating whether software companies that make cellphone apps have been quietly collecting personal information from mobile devices and sharing it with advertisers and data brokers, the Federal Trade Commission recently announced.

The FTC said mobile apps can siphon data to "invisible and unknown" third parties that could be used to develop a detailed profile of a child without a parent's knowledge or consent, The Associated Press reported.

"It's not hypothetical that this information was shared," said Jessica Rich, associate director of the FTC's financial practices division.

Such apps can capture a child's physical location, phone numbers of their friends and more.

The FTC is considering major changes in the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act that would impose tougher online safeguards for children under 13, according to the AP.

Technology companies have warned that the proposed changes are too aggressive and could discourage them from producing kid-friendly content on the internet.

But spying on our kids doesn't seem that friendly.

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