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Westmoreland Tuesday takes

| Tuesday, March 30, 2004

After the fact: Since Kristen Tatar's emaciated body was found stuffed in a beverage cooler almost eight months ago, various inadequacies have come to light within Westmoreland County's Children's Bureau and in its handling of the case. Understaffing and internal structural problems plagued the bureau, according to the agency's own findings, prior to Kristen's death. A subsequent state probe found that Westmoreland caseworkers failed to follow up on whether the 4-year-old, born with a serious digestive disorder, received proper medical attention after she was returned to her parents.

It was concern over Kristin's medical care that originally prompted caseworkers to take custody of the child.

Only now, months after Kristen's death, the garbage has come bubbling up to the surface -- staffing shortages, stinging reports and documented foul-ups. It's infuriating. What we have yet to see is any meaningful accountability, by anyone, for what happened to this child.

The next best thing to being there? Westmoreland County court officials are working with computer vendors on a system that could do away with night court -- and at a considerable savings to taxpayers.

The idea is to arraign criminal suspects over the Internet. If it works, the process could be expanded. Of course, all legal rights of the accused must be preserved.

What's envisioned is not merely paper-shuffling. It's innovation by county commissioners and by Westmoreland's District Justice Association. That's commendable.

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