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Protection

How can we keep law enforcement officers safe?

Within just a few days, four police officers — two in New York City and two in Forrest City, Arkansas — were shot by gunmen. A grim fact of life for law enforcement personnel is that by the time you read this, it may be outdated. Attacks on police officers and sheriff’s deputies have become all too common.

Thankfully, all four of the wounded officers are expected to recover. The New York City gunman surrendered after emptying his pistol in a police station. In Arkansas, officers responding to a report of a man making threats at a Walmart store killed the assailant who wounded them.

The brave men and women who enforce our laws are supposed to be able to worry about protecting us, not whether they are targets. Already this year, 16 of them have died in the line of duty, however. Six of them were shot to death, with 10 others perishing from other causes, including vehicle accidents.

A significant number of law enforcement personnel killed on duty during the past few years have been victims of assailants who set out to shoot police officers. That was to blame in New York City, it has been reported. A motive for the Arkansas deaths has not yet been reported.

What can those of us being served and protected do about attacks on officers, deputies and troopers? Not much. Identifying those with grudges so intense they turn to violence is virtually impossible. Making it clear the vast majority of us support law enforcement personnel makes no impression on a sick mind — though it certainly cannot hurt.

We can help watch their backs, of course, tipping them off when we feel they may be in danger. And we can do all in our power to ensure they have protective gear such as bullet-resistant vests.

Finally, we can protest “sentencing reform” movements that allow dangerous people to stay on the street or get back out after too-short prison terms. The New York gunman had a lengthy criminal record, including a 2002 carjacking in which he shot at police and a prison term, ending in 2017, on an attempted murder conviction.

There really is little we can do to assure those who serve and protect that we are on their side. Clearly, however, we simply must do what we can.

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These days, it seems as if there is an “app” for everything. But the fiasco last week with the Iowa Democratic Party’s presidential nominating caucuses is a reminder that the appeal of new technology needs to be tempered by concern over reliability.

Iowa’s caucus process is the first contest among candidates seeking the highest office in the land. It also is an unusual method of gauging voter support. Instead of a conventional primary election, Iowans use a town-hall meeting format, precinct by precinct.

Democrat leaders in that state decided this year to make more use of technology in handling their party’s caucuses. Calling it a disaster is putting it mildly. Even a week after Iowa Democrats trekked to their precincts for caucuses, final results were uncertain.

A massive, pervasive breakdown of the new system made the process an embarrassment.

Clearly, Iowa Democrat leaders should have tested the system better and trained precinct-level workers better.

Though other states in the presidential nominating process rely on conventional primary elections, the Iowa fiasco is a valuable reminder that while technology can allow us to do things faster and more efficiently, over-reliance on it can be risky.

Throughout the nation, thoughtful political party and government election officials ought to view the Iowa experience as a warning: Being certain the a new “app” works as advertised is imperative.