Monday, November 11, 2013

OUR OPINION: Youth Center Is Right Idea, Wrong Operators

The Howard Brown Broadway Youth Center (BYC) is a great idea and it has done a lot of good over the years. There is a very good reason for the services it offers to exist in our neighborhood.

But the neighborhood cannot trust current BYC leadership to run the center in a responsible way and, for that  reason, the center should be denied its request for special zoning. That is our opinion.

While Howard Brown and BYC leaders would like to make this issue one of the neighborhood vs. people in need, it's really about them. It's about their poor decision making. It's about their obstruction of law enforcement. It's about what appears to be, at best, poor training of their staff.

On Friday, we shared two police reports in which 19th district police officers stated outright that BYC staff refused to assist as law enforcement investigated beatings that took place outside and inside BYC facilities.

According to one report, BYC staff repeatedly refused to help police identify a suspect, even though a woman had just been beaten by the man inside of their center.

The Broadway Youth Center's privacy statement lists all of the
reasons it is allowed to release patient data to law enforcement. In
spite of these legal exceptions to privacy laws, BYC staff chose to
not cooperate with law enforcement on at least two occasions in 2012.
The other report states that "several bystanders" told officers that another battery offender "was being hidden inside [the BYC] by the center's staff."

BYC told officers that the information being sought about violent offenders was protected by a federal health privacy act known as HIPAA. HIPAA explicitly allows health care providers to assist law enforcement in several scenarios.

Even Broadway Youth Center's own HIPAA policy statement states that they can cooperate with police.

Yet, the center's staff chose to shield violent offenders. Some may say that the staff misunderstood the law. If so, that shows that BYC staff is not properly trained. In this situation, only the most bull-headed of people would resist saying, "you know, officer. I hear you saying that I'm wrong. Let me call somebody at Howard Brown for clarification."

The fact that police were blocked twice in six months leads us to conclude that non-cooperation with law enforcement is in the center's DNA.

Let's switch things up. What if, say, a tavern obstructed police in that way. Twice. There would be serious consequences for that business. What if those business owners then went a few blocks away and sought to open a new tavern. Should they be allowed to? Or should the neighborhood look at the operators' track record and express their concerns that there will repeat performances?

Things are no different when the operators are part of a non-profit organization. For now, we believe that the BYC and HB are the wrong people and the wrong agency for a very important job.