published Monday, April 30th, 2012

Sheriff Jim Hammond stands by his calls on behalf of friend

  • photo
    Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond speaks to the media in this file photo.
    Staff File Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press

DEPARTMENT POLICY SAYS


"Employees shall avoid associations or dealings with persons whom they know are under criminal investigations or criminal indictment, or who have a reputation in the community for present involvement in felonious or criminal behavior, except as necessary to the performance of official duties or where unavoidable because of other personal relationships of the employee."

" Employees shall report any violations of the rules or orders of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office by any other employee."

Source: General Orders Manual 26.1.1, Hamilton County Sheriff's Office

A Hamilton County Sheriff's Office policy says employees "shall avoid associations or dealing with persons whom they know are under criminal investigation or criminal indictment."

But Sheriff Jim Hammond said Friday that following the policy, which he approved in 2010, is almost impossible because law enforcement officers must regularly associate with current and former criminals, some of whom are informants or may have information on committed crimes.

Hammond's assessment was part of his response to a question about whether he violated that policy by making calls on behalf of Lonnie Hood, a former deputy charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest by the Chattanooga Police Department last New Year's Eve.

"I'm not going to do anything that's criminal," Hammond said Friday. "I like to give people a helping hand up."

Hammond said he's done the same for several others.

"I'll let the people decide at election time if they think I'm a good sheriff," he said.

A police report detailed a struggle between Hood and a Chattanooga police officer. "Mr. Hood advised the officer on several [occasions] that the officer didn't know who he was and who he was laying his hands on," the report said.

In 1998, Hood pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess and distribute steroids, extortion, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the United States of income tax, tampering with a witness and obstruction of justice. The sheriff's department received a monetary award for deputies' efforts in the federal investigation.

Hammond said he made some phone calls on Hood's behalf on New Year's Eve after receiving "a call from a crying wife who used to work for me."

Hammond left messages for Hood at the jail, and Hood called him from there.

"I turned and called the magistrate's office," Hammond said.

Magistrates set bonds and issue warrants, and the sheriff said he asked Magistrate Sharetta Smith if Hood would be released on his own recognizance, not if he could. Hammond said Friday he was gathering information for Hood's wife.

Smith set two bonds for Hood, one for $500 and another for $1,500.

Hammond said he made no calls to the Chattanooga police officer who made the arrest or to Judge Clarence Shattuck, who on March 13 ordered Hood, a contractor whose license currently is retired, to serve seven days of community service before he would dismiss the charges.

Hammond also never appeared in court on behalf of Hood.

"There was no judge talked to," Hammond said.

When Hammond learned Hood would be available for community service, he said he and Chief Deputy Allen Branum thought Hood could help convert a former evidence processing room in one of their facilities, so Branum contacted the court's corrections program.

"We would use anybody," Branum said.

Hood's labor saved the county at least $1,000, Branum said.

about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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