Transparency builds trust!
So, in order that we operate at the optimum level we need the trust of the general public. Individuals need to know they can trust us when our deputies investigate criminal activity. When citizens ask not to be identified when sharing some intelligence, they should be confident of that commitment.
When a citizen serves on a jury, that person should know the deputy is truthful and has made a thorough investigation before an arrest is made on a crime.
There must be confidence that our deputy sheriffs have set aside any bias, prejudice, or grudges that would hamper good judgment in the prosecution of a case.
As a longtime public servant I want to be as accommodating to the public as I can be. As long as it is legal, ethical and prudent, I will work at helping people if it is in my power to do so. I will work to be as fair to anyone in Bradley County as I would be to a close friend.
If we have a problem with an employee at the Sheriff’s Office we will be as forthcoming as possible with information, but will strive, also, to still be ethical in our dealings with employees. They have civil rights too, and we must consider their families and their reputations, as well.
In some cases that we investigate we have to hold some of the information until the case is fully developed.
Several years ago we began to receive complaints about illegal gambling machines operating in our county. We could only thank callers for the information and tell them we would follow up on the information. We could not tell them that a joint undercover operation was already going on between the Sheriff’s Office, other area law enforcement officers, the TBI and the FBI. After a short time we raided all these places and collected around 400 illegal gambling machines.
Another example is when a resident of the county complained to one of the deputies about a “dirty cop” who was into drugs.
This person remembered the cop as a uniformed patrol officer, not a plain-clothes officer. What the person didn’t know was the officer had been transferred into the detective division to serve as an undercover agent with the drug unit.
The deputy in question, of course, could not divulge that information.
We also have to be careful about information that would libel someone. This same rule applies when certain information is withheld at a press conference for fear it will prejudice a potential jury.
Then, there are the frivolous lawsuits that are filed in which an attorney normally advises you not to comment for fear that some information might be skewed.
Personally, I would rather tell my side of the story and expose the misinformation and fully explain all to the public.
Most of us have the tendency to quickly form an opinion without hearing all the facts. Some people are fond of saying there are two sides to every story — my side and your side.
Another point of view that was held by an old retired sharecropper was — there are three sides to every story — my side, your side and the right side.
I strongly believe in accountability.
In our free society we must expect that our public officials be as open as possible.
This office of sheriff, which you the people have entrusted me with, dates back over a thousand years to old England.
The office of sheriff is provided for in the Tennessee Constitution. That is why it is a constitutional office. That is, also, why the sheriff’s salary is set by the Tennessee State Legislature.
The sheriff must give account every four years for his stewardship of the office.
Every registered voter has a say in this accountability procedure. This is democracy in its purest form, and sheriffs all across America are very alert to the sensitivity of their voting constituencies.
We must never allow this voting right to be compromised to back-room bureaucracies like those that exist on many levels in the federal government.
These bureaucrats are protected by so much red tape that they never have to give account to anyone.
I have mentioned that we are working on a career track for our professional deputies.
This will provide job protection for most everyone. While the sheriff and the top one or two officials in the administration should always be accountable to the voting public, we can certainly maintain this accountability and still provide job protection to our hard-working deputies.
My political enemies and my political friends have harassed me, usually in a teasing way, saying that I don’t talk enough to be in politics. My wife, also, get a little flustered with me at times, because I am not a “big talker.”
With this in mind, I certainly appreciate these opportunities to have this one-way conversation with all of you who read the Cleveland Daily Banner each week.
Yet, it is not really just a one-way conversation, because I hear from many of you every week by e-mail, telephone and in chance meetings in the marketplace and around town.
I want to say thank you for the comments and suggestions that many of you have made to me.
Oh, by the way, some of my friends think that I am talking more!