Smith: Demand integrity in public square

Smith: Demand integrity in public square

August 11th, 2014 By Robin Smith in Opinion Columns

Robin Smith

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

In recent days, news accounts have chronicled shootings involving young men who "refuse to cooperate" with law enforcement officers.

On Aug. 3, police responded to a shooting involving a man shot while he was walking on Tunnel Boulevard. The Chattanooga Police Department reported the victim "did not wish to pursue prosecution" and refused to cooperate.

Last Monday night, police were called to the scene of a shooting with two victims suffering nonlife-threatening wounds. Both were "unwilling to cooperate," police said. Just Wednesday, a 19-year-old man was shot in the arm on North Orchard Knob Avenue. He told police he "was not willing to prosecute and would not appear in court."

Most of us scratch our heads in wonder.

Why would a victim of a crime refuse to expose the identity of the offender? Why would an individual feel compelled to remain silent?

Fear? Sure, if there's a belief that retribution is likely or if the criminal has a position of power over the victim's life.

Accepted practice of the culture? Maybe, if those involved are engaged in some kind of criminal enterprise and are therefore reluctant to talk with investigators, who might uncover unlawful activities.

Hopelessness? Sure, unfulfilled promises in some neighborhoods to reduce crime, eradicate gangs or make our neighborhoods safer have left residents convinced nothing will happen to criminals.

There may be, and are likely, other realities in this frustrating scenario.

As we scratch our heads over the reluctance of some in our community to pursue justice, consider these questions: How quick are we in the business community to step up when we see wrongdoing or cronyism? How determined are we in seeking a remedy to blatant corruption or under-the-table deals? How much personal courage do we have?

The same responses that help explain reticence in our inner-city neighbors to get involved, to stick their own necks out, could apply to those in the business and political community who struggle with a parallel quandary.

Fear? Politics is not just contained in the arena of policy and governmental enterprises. The politics and sausage-making of power players are pervasive in local, state and national business. The fear of political retribution is real.

The accepted practice or culture? Some in business and politics develop a persona that's bigger than life, which morphs -- sadly -- into the conviction that they are larger than the laws of nature, business ethics, and, sometimes, common decency. Heavy-handed, unethical or borderline practices should have no place in our corporate cultures.

Hopelessness? There are many who have seen just a little smack on the hand of a business colleague or supervisor or have seen their company look the other way to wrongdoing to further a profitable endeavor or protect a favored leader.

Our community needs victims of crime to step forward rather than enduring crime in their communities or settling for less than a safe, secure neighborhood.

Our community also needs citizens to call out the bad actors in our business community and in our elected offices. Citizens should praise and extol any corporate culture, politicians and organizations committed to transparency, honesty and good faith.

"There are seven things that will destroy us: Wealth without work; pleasure without conscience; knowledge without character; religion without sacrifice; politics without principle; science without humanity; business without ethics," wrote Mahatma Gandhi.

Let's model living a life of integrity and personal courage, then let's demand the same from others.

Robin Smith, immediate past Tennessee Republican Party chairwoman, is owner of Rivers Edge Alliance.