Opinion Columns & Blogs

Addressing violence in Modesto and Stanislaus County

Millie Cox , 8, right, pours lemonade for people, with the help of her friend Ashlan McCurley, 9, left, at Valley Home Park in Valley Home, Calif., Friday, Aug. 16, 2019. Millie raised over a $1000 for the purchase of mourning bands law enforcement wear across their badges when a fellow officer is killed in the line of duty.
Millie Cox , 8, right, pours lemonade for people, with the help of her friend Ashlan McCurley, 9, left, at Valley Home Park in Valley Home, Calif., Friday, Aug. 16, 2019. Millie raised over a $1000 for the purchase of mourning bands law enforcement wear across their badges when a fellow officer is killed in the line of duty. aalfaro@modbee.com

Portland escaped large-scale violence last weekend between far-right rally-goers and left-wing Antifa militants. Now the eyes of many across the United States have turned to Modesto, waiting to see how a straight pride rally and potential protests unfold Saturday.

No time like the present to reflect on safety, the theme of today’s column.

Thumbs up on Deputy Royjindar Singh, who obtained Stanislaus County’s first-ever gun violence restraining order against an apparently disturbed Denair man who, in a crisis of paranoia, shot at neighbors for no reason. With gun control again debated on the national political stage, it’s nice to learn about another violence-avoiding tool available to law enforcement — not willy nilly, but if they can show that someone with a firearm poses a threat to himself or herself, or others. Singh’s proactive approach to safety should serve as a model to other departments.

Thumbs down on the misguided practice of overprescribing addictive opioids over the years. The Modesto Bee’s Mackenzie Shuman, using data gathered by The Washington Post, provided quite a shock in a report this week: 112 opioid prescriptions in Stanislaus County for every 100 people, in 2012 — a far higher ratio than the rest of California, and most other counties. Stanislaus’ Opioid Safety Coalition, formed last year, has its work cut out.

Thumbs down on the mistaken thought that giving teens information about suicide prevention makes them consider it. Area schools are including crisis hotlines when providing student I.D. cards in seventh grade and up, complying with a new state law. Any effort to reduce suicide, especially among our young people, is commendable, and getting kids to open up about what’s bothering them is one of the best ways to help. Minimizing or ignoring their pain is no help at all.

Speaking of schools and students, thumbs up on Modesto City Schools and its new system for checking in visitors. Requiring photo I.D., and running it against nationwide registries for sex offenders, is another positive step toward keeping our young people safe. Parents, classroom volunteers and other visitors won’t mind this precaution; if any do, better double-check them.

Few knew more about school safety than Deputy Dennis Wallace, who befriended thousands of young students while serving many years as a school resource officer on campuses in Salida and Hughson before he was killed while checking a stolen van in November 2016. Thumbs up on renaming a 5-mile stretch of Yosemite Boulevard, near Waterford, in his honor. As all who knew him can attest — including me and my children — he was a good man.

Thumbs up on 8-year-old Millie Cox, who made a selfless stand with her lemonade stand in Valley Home, raising $1,357 to donate to Honor Bands. The nonprofit provides black mourning bands worn across badges of law enforcement officers, honoring colleagues killed in the line of duty, like Wallace. All of Stanislaus County is proud of you, Millie.

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Garth Stapley is The Modesto Bee’s Opinions page editor. Before this assignment, he worked 25 years as a Bee reporter, covering local government agencies and the high-profile murder case of Scott and Laci Peterson.
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