Chief Deputy Allen Branum said Thursday that the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department is “going through bad times” but would continue to protect and serve area residents.
“Everybody out on the street could do their job with or without a sheriff or with or without a chief,” Chief Deputy Branum said at a neighborhood meeting for the Windstone subdivision. “We are going through bad times right now but ... the guys and girls on the street are more determined than ever to make sure everybody knows they are committed to this job.”
Former Sheriff Billy Long was arrested Saturday on federal charges of extortion, money laundering and giving a gun to someone he knew was a convicted felon. On Monday, prosecutors announced he also would be charged with possessing cocaine hydrochloride with intent to distribute.
Mr. Long, who resigned his position as sheriff on Wednesday, is scheduled to appear today in U.S. District Court for a preliminary hearing on the charges and a bond hearing.
Chief Deputy Branum said when deputies take the oath of office, they do not swear allegiance to any one individual. They take an oath to protect and serve the citizens and uphold the laws, he said.
“When I came to office 1 1/2 years ago, I was proud and I’m proud today,” Chief Branum said. “Integrity means everything. I’d live in a cardboard box with integrity.”
The Hamilton County Commission on Thursday decided to appoint an interim sheriff who would agree not to seek election to a four-year term in August.
The chief deputy, who had earlier expressed an interest in the position said he has not made a decision about whether to run for that office.
Commissioner Larry Henry said he attended the neighborhood watch meeting to show support for Chief Branum and to assure residents that Hamilton County was being protected.
“I’ve got every confidence in the world in what Chief Branum is doing,” Mr. Henry said. “I support him.”
Chief Branum said his duties as chief deputy have been to oversee day-to-day operations of the department which includes patrol, corrections and court security officers.
While offering support for Chief Branum and his deputies, most of those attending the meeting at New Heights Baptist Church on Ooltewah-Ringgold Road were concerned with speeding, roaming dogs and vandalism in the Windstone subdivision.
“It was a neighborhood watch meeting, that’s all it was about,” Windstone resident Barney Morgan said. “I was surprised the Deputy Chief and Commissioner Henry came.”