If you can’t do the time ...
by Jim Ruth Bradley County Sheriff
Mar 02, 2014 | 610 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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The old adage is falling by the wayside. Those who do the shooting, the murdering and maiming are no longer doing the hard time.

They often plead into a lesser crime that carries a lighter sentence and then are quickly released on parole. They go right back to the same lifestyle as before, and too often they kill again.

Most of us are perplexed as we see the results of the street violence just 15 minutes southwest of us. The news media seems to feature this violence every day.

The culture that has enveloped the inner city of Chattanooga, along with some fringe areas, has developed because of neglect. A former Chattanoogan who now resides in Cleveland told me she remembers when Chattanooga was mostly safe. She shopped and did business without being fearful. She spoke of one particular leader whom she felt had a lot of influence on the safe street back then.

When the bad guy believes the odds are in his favor and that he will get by committing crimes, or that the punishment will be minimal, then he freely plies his trade.

There are reasons for the lesser pleadings, thus the shorter sentences. That reason is a lack of manpower in the prosecutor’s office. The court dockets are always crowded. The prisons are so over-crowded the system needs the relief of early releases and parole.

The career criminal quickly learns all of the legal loopholes and shortcuts that keep him out of jail. They know the punishment will neither be swift, nor sure.

Of course, another integral unit of having safe streets is law enforcement. To keep a community safe, you must begin with a strong, intelligent group of men and women who are self-motivated with a heart for service. As the community grows, the numbers must increase in the ranks of law enforcement. There are no shortcuts, no discounts, no bluffing. The people in law enforcement must stand and deliver. We will pay the fiddler now or pay a much higher price later.

The latest national reports indicate crime is edging upward throughout the country. The keepers of the records also readily admit that many violent crimes are committed and go unreported.

I want the taxpaying public to know what we as a community are up against as we continue to grow in the next several years. There is no need to despair. We are well able to meet the future as it concerns law enforcement. We must keep up with the times. Be assured, our people are working to do just that.

Today, I again remind area folks about the need to be involved in the community. The more local residents know about their law enforcement people, the more possibilities for a mutual trust to blossom and grow.

Across America, there are some religious, ethnic and racial groups that feel they have been mistreated and abused by law enforcement. This mistrust is very much a problem in some towns and large cities. Overall, we have a good relationship here between religious, ethnic and racial groups. Although, I am sure there are still some vestiges of discrimination that exist.

Fortunately, we here in Cleveland/Bradley have taken on any ethnic/racial divide kind of by osmosis. We lived in the same neighborhoods, played sandlot ball together, fought with each other and for each other. Some of us kids went to war. Some became firefighters, some went into emergency services, some into law enforcement — like myself. Others went on to other jobs.

We raise our families, participate in our church and community, and mostly become good and decent folks.

As our country salutes Black History Month, I think we have had it good here in Cleveland. There are always bumps in the road, but I am grateful for the openness and forthrightness of the black leaders of various groups who are part of our community. I have found most to be frank and honest. Also, I have found them to be fair in their judgment and assessment as we have discussed any potential racial problems for our community.

Bradley County has a growing number of immigrants from all over the world, as well. They will tell you that our little Southeast Tennessee city has shown them a warm, welcoming spirit as they joined our family.

Thanks for reading.