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Laws, rules no substitute for citizens doing the right thing

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: September 6, 2013

Even when policies are well-devised, they can still be undermined by incompetence or complacency. Background checks were required for coaches working at Penn State's summer sports camps, yet 234 of 735 coaches in 2009 didn't undergo those checks. Thus, David Finkelhor of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center told the AP, the problem at Penn State was not “that they didn't have enough rules, or that they didn't have a mandatory law that required this reporting.”

Indeed, the 2012 Penn State report issued by former FBI Director Louis Freeh's law firm noted a janitor saw Sandusky molesting a young boy in 2000. That janitor, who had fought in the Korean War, reportedly told his colleagues he had “seen people with their guts blowed out, arms dismembered ... . I just witnessed something in there I'll never forget.”

Yet when another janitor suggested they notify the police, the janitor who witnessed the assault reportedly said, “No, they'll get rid of us all.” Another janitor said it “would have been like going against the president of the United States in my eyes.”

Laws and regulations matter. They play a role in preserving civil order. But laws and regulations don't purge men of evil intent, and policymakers can't perfectly anticipate how criminals will respond. Most of all, laws and regulations are no substitute for citizens' willingness to do the right thing all the time, even when others turn a blind eye.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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