An old friend of mine recently moved back to the area. Her husband, who has a military and law enforcement background, is about to travel back overseas to do private security work. The position is lucrative but obviously comes with the risks of the region he will be assigned to and literally keeps them half a world apart for months at a time. She said they would be fine if he could just get on with a few area police departments or agencies, which she listed but I can’t remember which ones now. Sure, they wouldn’t make as much money, but they could survive.

I said, “Well, what about him getting on with the Mobile Police Department?”

She literally laughed in my face and shook her head. “Do you know what they pay?” she said.

I knew it wasn’t great, but I didn’t think it would be laughable or so different from the other local ones she threw out as acceptable.

A report compiled by and reposted on recently caught my eye and seemed to explain her laughter. Mobile is listed as the fourth worst-paying city for police officers in the country, with an average salary listed as $32,130.

Now, granted, just about all of the worst-paying ones were in the South, where the cost of living is much lower. All of the best-paying ones were in large Northeastern cities or on the West Coast. But to put it in a more local perspective, the state average for Alabama is $41,040.

I know we have a list a mile long of things we all want and need for this city we all love. Lord knows, I sigh every day when I travel down the deplorable and embarrassing Ann Street, as I carefully try not to “bounce” any coffee out of the Tervis tumbler sitting in my cup holder. #firstworldproblemsonthirdworldlikestreet

Needless to say, the potholes and craters win, but I’ll survive with a Bounty paper towel and some Formula 409.

But to make sure we are indeed the “safest city in America by 2020” we really need to make getting this salary up for our officers a priority — on par with the state average, at the very least.

And while we are talking about people who help keep bad guys off the street, hey, Mobile County Commission, isn’t it time to help our Mobile County assistant district attorneys get their salaries up to a level where they can pay their student loans and maybe buy a bag of ramen or two to eat? I know y’all like to shove responsibility off onto the state, but we know what they like to do with money that should be ours. (I’m talking about the BP money, in case that wasn’t obvious, which I hope it was.) It’s time to stop wasting money on legal fees over this and take care of our own. Then we can look to things like soccer complexes. Mama always said, safety first.

“I’m inclined to reserve all judgment.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Great Gatsby”

As the parent of a young son and daughter, the recent alleged rape case in Spanish Fort has me terrified for them both. Let me start off by saying, I have no personal knowledge of this case. I only know what has been reported in this paper and by other media, and I have not drawn any personal conclusions about this specific case — that is for the grand jury and then perhaps a jury to decide once they hear the evidence.

But having been a teenager myself — albeit a couple of decades ago — it’s not hard to imagine many different possible scenarios where poor choices could be made in seconds, ruining lives forever.

Unless things have changed dramatically, teenagers in general are curious about sex, and while some do abstain for religious or other reasons, many are trying to either dip their toes in the waters of their own sexuality or even taking the plunge. And they often do so very clumsily.

Parents have different approaches on talking to their kids about this topic. Some sit down and very bluntly have “the talk” and even offer to provide birth control. Others take on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” strategy, while others just declare, “abstinence is the policy in this family, bottom line, end of discussion,” even if that is not necessarily the policy that teen is going to personally adopt.

And sexual education classes can vary with each school and teacher. Even if it is the same textbook — the way it is taught and presented can perhaps convey different meanings.

So you have kids who have received varying and mixed messages on the matter — from not just home and school, but also their peer groups and perceived cultural norms — trying to navigate complex emotional situations that most adults still struggle with for some time.

Obviously, no means no.

And obviously, if someone is unconscious or incapacitated, taking advantage of that person is totally unacceptable.

But it’s all the situations you can imagine that could fall somewhere in the middle and the possible outcomes that could occur for your daughter or your son that are terrifying to think about.

I know we all hope as parents we are able to equip our kids with the knowledge, character and confidence to make good choices and not end up in a horrible situation like this. I can’t imagine what the mothers of both these kids must be going through right now.

But I also hope as a community we will reserve judgment on this case that has hit so close to home until we know the evidence. There have been so many comments on news sites and social media already condemning both the accused and/or the victim, and the case hasn’t even been in front of the grand jury yet.

Maybe we will find condemnation is warranted in the end, but right now just remember that no matter what the outcome, the lives of two young people and their families, as well as a school and a community, have been forever changed.