published Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Sheriff Jim Hammond's group banquet next week

Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd's letter to Sheriff Jim Hammond
Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd's letter to Sheriff Jim Hammond
IF YOU GO

• What: The Sheriff's Foundation annual banquet

• When: Nov. 8 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

• Where: Chattanoogan hotel, 1201 Broad St.

• Information: For information on the lunch or to make a donation through the Community Foundation, contact Anne Brown at 209-7002.

Next week, Sheriff Jim Hammond will host the second Sheriff's Foundation banquet to raise money to benefit area law enforcement.

An estimated $140,000 to $150,000 has been raised since the foundation was launched last year, Hammond said.

"I would like us to get up to several million dollars before we see how the principal can be used," he said.

While some area law enforcement officials have been supportive of the foundation, Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd will not attend. He said he doesn't think it's appropriate for him or other police administrators to go to businesses and ask for money.

"I feel to remain an effective and credible leader, I must stay out of the political realm, as well as avoid any perception of preferential treatment created through monetary donations," Dodd wrote in an Oct. 8 letter to Hammond to decline the invitation.

Hammond acknowledged that the foundation might present potential conflicts with donors who may expect breaks in return from law enforcement.

"I think human nature is you're going to find that everywhere you go," he said. "Do I think there are people who would personally do that? There are some who probably would."

Hammond said he does not have anything to do with the money raised for the foundation.

"You have to weigh as a police chief or sheriff: Is this politics or am I doing something here that I would normally do for anybody else?" he said. "I think part of what we do is political -- whether we like it or not -- whether we're a police chief or a sheriff. It all comes down to what your ethics and your character are."

The two law enforcement chiefs disagree about the foundation.

"This is not an issue of character or ethics. It's more of a personal decision as to what is right and what is wrong," Dodd said in an email. "I have had numerous business owners and wealthy residents offer to donate funds to purchase equipment or donate the equipment directly to our department and I have instructed them to write down their offer and submit it to the city council."

A number of foundations across the country, Hammond said, supplement law enforcement agencies.

"This is about helping all of us," he said. "If they've [Chattanooga police] got plenty of money, then they don't need the help of the foundation, more power to them."

Dodd said he stays within his budget.

"We have come in at or under budget the last three years and that is how we maintain the confidence and support of our mayor and council," Dodd said.

The Chattanooga Police Department has about 465 sworn officers and an operating budget of a little more than $54 million. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office has a budget of about $27 million and 155 sworn deputies as well as jail and court officers.

Hammond's selections for the foundation's board contributed funds to his campaign. Greg Vital of Morning Pointe Assisted Living and Alzheimer's Memory Care, Emerson Russell of ERMC and William Miller of Miller Industries all contributed a minimum of $1,000 each, according to disclosure records.

Two out of three board members must vote to approve any expenditures by the foundation, Hammond said. Beginning this year, he said he plans to ask one board member to step down and consult with area police chiefs to pick a businessman to fill the open slot.

"Every year we will rotate at least one of those businessmen off, even if we just have to put names in a box and pull one out because I'm not interested in putting friends of Jim on there. I hope everybody is a friend of Jim. I want a neutral setting," Hammond said.

It could be three to five years before the foundation is at a level where funds can be spent, he said. The foundation will provide funding in areas of technology, command-level training and law enforcement programs that partner with the community.

Hammond said he hopes to find someone this year to help secure corporate donations on behalf of the foundation.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at 423-757-6406 or bburger@timesfreepress.com. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

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