Long arc of government

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Tommy Foster
Bedford County

    Here in Bedford County we have the heritage to be proud of our nobility in matters of government and history: Jefferson’s summer home, nearby to Red Hill of Patrick Henry and the D-Day Memorial.
    Here, of all places, we have the benefit of the government having the long view: to rectify wrong and unlawful conduct and to provide a safe and secure locale for citizens to live and conduct their business and livelihoods. And we have prosecutors (Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Krantz) to serve the long arm of the law and a robust Circuit Court (Judge James Updike) to assure the citizenry of due process and clean up of wrongdoing in a rational and fair manner.
    What we do not need is speed or grandstanding in the pursuit of civility and handling of individual rights.  The careful pursuit of criminal and illegal activity by our constitutional officer, Sheriff Mike Brown, is a duty that the citizens should be grateful for in the sense that we have an individual that is willing to take on that responsibility which is sometimes a thankless task.
    At the same time we, the citizenry, should demand that the government writ large should operate in the long view by refraining from the grandstanding of celebrating arrests with mug shots and news stories about drug busts, child pornography and domestic violence until convictions have been obtained. Only then should such stories be published and they would then give assurance that our government officials are providing the services supported by taxes and citizen interest.
    Otherwise such short views of the government system give rise to a nervousness and frantic rush to secure a just and free society via sensationalism whereas it is the long arc of government that makes the Magna Carta (1215 AD) a proud start to the notion of modern Western democracies. We have here in Bedford County and in the Commonwealth of Virginia deep records of both case law and legislative law that allow us to live without the need for prejudicial or salacious content and with the maturity to know that law and order does not mean quick and dirty.
    The recent legislative query into the re-appointment of Judge Updike highlights this issue: questions were raised about the statistical deviations from judicial guidelines.  In reply Judge Updike said that many decisions involved plea arrangements agreed to by the Commonwealth’a Attorney Krantz for which he had no latitude. As we know the Commonwealth’s Attorney is also a constitutional officer (the Circuit Judge is not) elected at large and has no investigational authority or personnel to investigate. Thus the Commonwealth’s Attorney is restricted to evidence developed by the Sheriff (also a constitutional officer) and his staff of deputies, detectives, investigators and officers. It is not a long leap to see that lack of actionable evidence leaves the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s hands tied and the Circuit Judge limited and even questioned.
    The onus is on the Sheriff to stop grandstanding and begin a responsible and managed effort to do right by the office and provide the long arm of the law with stamina rather that simple muscle flex that is so predominant in recent times. Recent court decisions in other states have required the removal of the names and photos from publication of the accused when the charges were later dismissed.    Further, stories of crime and punishment are so much more credible when they are true rather than when they are merely suggested.