As Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond faces growing criticism for a speech in which he said local gang members needed to be sent "to the funeral home," Hammond released a statement to the media Wednesday calling for a "strong stance against the gang problem."
The statement was released after several days in which Hammond has received sharp criticism from community leaders who said his speech to the Brainerd Kiwanis Club on Friday used language that was too violent.
"We need to run them out of town, put them in jail or send them to the funeral home," Hammond said of gang members.
During a local meeting for the NAACP last night, several members lashed out against Hammond's choice of words.
In his statement, Hammond never directly references the Kiwanis speech or community reactions, though he says he is "committed to a no-nonsense, no lip service and no political rhetoric approach" to security for law enforcement officers and citizens.
"To that end, law enforcement officers will stand in the gap between good and evil and protect the good citizens of Hamilton County," he said.
In the statement, Hammond noted that 164 law enforcement officers in the U.S. were killed in the line of duty in 2011, and referenced Chattanooga Police Sgt. Tim Chapin - who was shot and killed while responding to an armed robbery in April.
"A good number of those deaths were caused by young people," Hammond said.
Calling gangs a "scourge" to the county that is reaching into regions outside of Chattanooga, Hammond voiced support for school- and faith-based anti-gang initiatives, and praised the new Chattanooga Area Gang Enforcement task force. He called new leader Boyd Patterson the "right man for the job."
Hammond also said he respected the work of the NAACP and other community leaders.
"To achieve the proper empathy and relationship between us, we need each other," he said.
For complete details, read Thursday's Times Free Press.