Transparency is a word that has been bandied about quite a bit in the past few weeks. Louis Brandeis, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 1916 -1939 said that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” What Justice Brandeis, who, a hundred years ago, championed the right to privacy, the rights of free speech and fought against monopolies, big banks, public corruption and mass consumerism (sound familiar?) meant was that in order for a free society to function efficiently their leaders, in particular, had to be open and honest with the public when it comes to divisive issues. The American people as a whole are fairly intelligent when it comes to drawing the proper conclusions when confronted with evidence. The problem becomes exacerbated when government obfuscates and tries to cover up the very evidence to which the public wants access.
We see the issue playing out in real time this week in Charlotte, NC. After the shooting of Keith Scott on Tuesday the police department confirmed that they do indeed have video evidence from one of the officers’ dash cams and video from at least one of the officers’ body cams that depict the events leading up to and including the shooting of Mr. Scott. So far, the police department has refused to release that video footage to the public. Mr. Scott’s family has now been afforded the opportunity to see the video with their attorneys and the reports from the family’s attorneys seem to indicate that at no time was Mr. Scott threatening or aggressive and as a matter of fact, seemed to be backing up when he was shot. It sounds as though there is no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Scott was pointing a gun at anybody at any time.
unrest in Charlotte. By contrast, there was another shooting of an unarmed black man on Friday of last week in Tulsa, OK. Tulsa police immediately released video from dash cams, body cams and video from a helicopter hovering overhead. It appears that the shooting in Tulsa was unjustified and charges of manslaughter have been filed against the officer involved. To my knowledge the protests in Tulsa have been relatively small and generally peaceful.
I do hate to bring these topics into the political realm but I do believe the central issue can be instructive. How can we expect our local civic leaders to abide by the rules of transparency when we have a candidate for President who refuses to be transparent about his tax returns, his charitable giving and his business practices. Donald Trump needs to learn that just saying “believe me” is not leadership. True leaders lead by example so it is not surprising that we are seeing state and local officials balking at transparency. Politicians all over the country are watching Presidential politics very closely and the lack of transparency at the top tends to filter down through state and local governments everywhere.