Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:
Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale on female police officers:
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The sight of a woman in a police uniform is no longer the novelty it once was. For good and valid reasons, police forces have embraced the notion that a diverse workforce strengthens their ability to police the communities they serve.
Less common is the sight of women in the chief's office. Appointment of a woman chief usually merits coverage in the newspaper and on local TV. Appointment of five female chiefs gets Page One treatment, as it did in the South Florida Sun Sentinel in a story by reporter Erika Pesantes.
Those five — from Hallandale, Medley, Miami Gardens, West Palm Beach and Lauderhill — broke the so-called "brass ceiling" over the last 18 months. They echoed a trend across the nation — six female chiefs in North Carolina, seven in Los Angeles County, another in Dallas and one in Oakland.
All that is encouraging, but as a survey by The Associated Press discloses, woman lead only five of the nation's 50 biggest police departments. A 2013 survey counted 169 female chiefs out of 1,500 departments.
While there is little debate among academics, sociologists and criminologists that the presence of female officers enhances the quality of police work, there remains doubt in the overwhelmingly male ranks.
A 2005 study of police officers concluded that "the single most problematic issue for women in law enforcement is the attitude of their co-workers."
That explains the growth of organizations that want to grow the number of women in police work in general and in leadership in particular. Membership in the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, founded 22 years ago, has been on a steady growth curve.
They make the case that the addition of women has improved policing, and a number of studies bear them out.
A study by the National Center for Women and Policing found that "females are not as likely to be involved in use of force complaints."
And the Christopher Commission, formed to look into the Rodney King case in Los Angeles, concluded that "female officers are better equipped to peacefully resolve potentially violent situations."
Among the commissions more startling discoveries was the disparity of lawsuit payouts between male and female officers. The ratio of male to female payouts was 30-to-one, while the ratio of males to females on the force was only four to one.
A survey of police attitudes conducted by the Pew Research Center echoes the conclusions of other studies.
"Women are less likely than men to say they have physically struggled with a suspect who was resisting arrest," the survey reported.
The same can be said of the need to fire a weapon in the line of duty. Only 11 percent of female officers reported firing a service weapon, as compared with 30 percent of male officers.
Asked about the use of aggression in certain situations, 48 percent of female officers supported that approach, as opposed to 58 percent of male officers.
In other words, the male police officer too often lives up to the stereotypical portrait of the tough cop, gruff, stern, quick to act, confrontational. His female counterpart is seen as — and is — softer, more prone to talk down violent behavior than to face it physically.
So while the maternal and compassionate attributes of women have hindered their advancement, "it is that same role that is now emerging as their shining asset," reports Lorene M. Sandifer in her study, "Police Use of Force: Does Gender Make a Difference?"
"It seems apparent that the soft-spoken female officer that chooses to de-escalate a potentially violent situation verbally, and leans on communication instead of violence and brawn, should be recognized as an asset," she concluded.
There is, of course, a need for the kind of approach taken by the bulk of male officers when the situation demands it. But an overly aggressive police response to street crime too often has resulted in riot and massive civil disobedience.
It is clear that the addition of female perspectives can make a significant difference in improving relations between police officers and the citizens they serve.
And it is equally clear that department-wide change will only come with more women in the ranks and in the chief's chair.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal on University of Central Florida football's undefeated season:
Undefeated, and undeniably snubbed.
That describes the University of Central Florida, which finished the season a perfect 13-0 after a 34-27 victory over Auburn Monday in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta. The Knights played with a giant chip on their shoulder after not being selected for college football's four-team championship playoff, despite being the only unbeaten team in the top 25 rankings.
UCF's record was a mirage, critics said. The Knights played in a weak conference. It can't hang with the sport's blue bloods. Auburn would expose UCF as a pretender.
Instead, the Knights proved they were contenders. They went toe to toe with the Tigers from the mighty Southeastern Conference, scoring 21 unanswered points in the second half to take a two-touchdown lead before intercepting an Auburn pass in the end zone with 24 seconds left to clinch the victory.
This was the same Auburn that during the regular season defeated both Alabama and Georgia — the two teams that will meet in the national championship game Jan. 8. That suggests UCF belongs with the big boys.
The transitive property is fool's gold in sports. Link enough wins and losses through common opponents — so-and-so beat so-and-so, who beat so-and-so, who beat so-and-so — and you can "prove" that a 3-9 also-ran is the equivalent of an 11-1 champion. UCF and teams in similar circumstances shouldn't have to rely on clever math or subjective standards to overcome the condescension from the college football cartel.
The Knights' victory Monday should be the impetus to improve the system.
After relying on polls for decades to crown its champion, the sport in 2014 finally acceded to demands for a genuine tournament, similar to what the NCAA has long employed for men's and women's basketball, baseball, etc. But the playoff was limited to four teams, which immediately created controversy because so many schools with compelling resumes were left out.
Granted, no matter where you place the cut-off, someone is going to be just outside the line. UCF this season was not the only one with a gripe: Ohio State, 11-2, won the Big 10 Conference but was left out of the final four while Alabama, 11-1, was included despite not even making it to the SEC championship game.
However, including eight teams makes the most sense:
(asterisk) It accommodates the champions of each of the so-called Power 5 conferences — Southeastern (SEC), Atlantic Coast (ACC), Big Ten, Big 12 and the Pacific 12.
(asterisk) It creates three at-large spots for particularly strong runners-up, such as teams whose only loss came in their conference championship game. It also opens the door for a team from a "mid-major" conference, such as the American Athletic Conference (AAC), Conference USA and Mountain West, to be given its shot at the title. Those schools have demonstrated they belong in the hunt: Since the current playoff format began four years ago, three mid-major teams — Boise State in 2014, Houston in 2015 and UCF Monday — defeated higher-ranked Power 5 teams in New Year's Day bowl games.
(asterisk) It would add only one more weekend of college games. Expanding the playoff beyond eight teams would stretch the season too long, making it more like an NFL schedule.
Sports thrive on narratives, and narratives love an underdog. UCF played the role this season. Tweak the playoff and open the door for more compelling stories like the Knights'.
Miami Herald on the Keys' need for workforce housing following Hurricane Irma:
If Monroe County doesn't help build housing that restaurant servers, fast-food workers, hotel staffers and supermarket managers, to say nothing of cashiers can afford, its tourism-based foundation will crumble.
After Hurricane Irma swept through the Lower Keys in September — and swept up homes and boats and mobile homes in its path — service workers left Florida's southernmost county in droves. Given their salaries, their housing options were tenuous to begin with. After Hurricane Irma, those options were wiped out. That means jobs have been slow to return, and much of the Keys' economic base remains in peril.
We commend state Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, for stepping up to file a request for $20 million to buy property in the Keys to rebuild affordable and workforce housing. Raschein also is requesting $2.85 million for a pilot program that would provide 30 pre-manufactured units for displaced Monroe residents. Raschein says that the units could be installed in hours rather than weeks or months, as is the case with traditional construction.
According to the Florida Keys Keynoter, almost 1,200 buildings, both residential and commercial, were destroyed by the hurricane, a Category 4. And this statistic does not include mobile homes. More than 1,000 structures received damage beyond 50 percent of the building's value; almost 40,000 households have applied for assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Keep in mind, there are about 55,000 housing units in the entire county.
So Raschein has a strong case to make to her colleagues to come through for the Keys. It remains in crisis mode.
But money is not the only resource that's desperately needed. There needs to be an abundance of political will, too. As the push for workforce housing gets started, so has the pushback. Many residents, understandably, are concerned about high density and the pressure it can add to public services and infrastructure.
Officials should be clear that they are looking to replace lost, often unstable housing, not add to the population.
There's another challenge against which elected officials should stand firm. They are in charge of a waterfront asset that developers are drooling over. In South Florida, counties too often acquiesce to the temptation of attracting more affluent residents, walling off public assets and — pocketing those campaign donations — at the expense of housing for people who provide basic, and vital, consumer services.
Virtually every county in the state is struggling with a scarcity of affordable housing. Unfortunately, Gov. Rick Scott himself has been of little help. As of November, his proposed budget would pilfer $92 million from Florida's affordable-housing trust funds and use them for other priorities. The shame of it is that diverting these funds has become a short-sighted tradition in this state.
Monroe officials should be resolute and not waver. Nor should they give in to any potential "them vs. us" hostility, as some affluent residents intimate that affordable and workforce housing will invite less desirable — to their minds — residents.
Nonsense. "Those" people make the Keys the tourist mecca that it is, serving dinners, working the cash register, answering 911 calls — everything vital to a robust quality of life.