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Exercise 6.5
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Writing an Editorial


Choose a position and write a 350-word editorial based on the following set of facts:
  • A local police department officer shot and killed a mountain lion that strayed into a suburban residential area earlier this week.

  • The lion was shot while relaxing in a tree in one resident's front yard. A local television station repeatedly broadcast footage of the killing, showing the moment of impact when the bullet hit the immobile lion and the limp body of the lion falling from the tree.

  • Some residents have said the police demonstrated a "lack of compassion" and argued that the police should have pursued a more humane option – most notably the idea of using tranquilizer darts and then trapping and relocating the lion. "I'm sorry to see the police took the easy way out," one resident said. Others weren't so diplomatic, referring to the police action as being "cruel," "atrocious," and "bloodthirsty." If the lion represented such a great danger, one resident said, why were the television reporters allowed so close to the scene. Dozens of letters critical of the police have been sent to your newspaper's Web site. At least one letter writer called for the police chief to resign.

  • In their defense, police have said wildlife experts told them that tranquilizer darts can take 25 minutes or longer to take effect. State Fish & Game and lion experts contacted by your newspaper have agreed with this timetable. Police have argued that the tranquilizer dart option would have been fine if the lion stayed in the tree until it passed out. But, they argued, being shot with a large hypodermic needle would likely propel the lion into active flight, and the lion had leapt 6-foot fences, according to witnesses who saw it moving around the neighborhood. Police officials argued that attempting to shoot a running lion on the ground would create a serious danger from stray shots – to other officers, numerous news reporters and bystanders, even persons inside their homes.

  • There were gaps in communication in the hours after the lion was first spotted at 4:45 a.m. and confirmed at 5:40 a.m. Police candidly admit that, intent on finding the lion, they forgot to implement the nearly $200,000 emergency dial-up alert system the city purchased after a 1998 flood. Another option would have been for officers to use loudspeakers to warn residents to stay indoors – and keep their children indoors.

  • Some residents said they learned of the lion from neighbors or when they walked up and asked parked officers – including units from other towns – why they were there. Many learned of the lion hunt from neighborhood listservs and regular updates on a community Web site.

  • Children had walked to local elementary schools without any warning, and some were scheduled to have been released from school to walk home less than an hour after the time the police officer fired the gun.

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