Sergeant challenging sheriff in Hamilton County primary

Sergeant challenging sheriff in Hamilton County primary

April 17th, 2014 by Beth Burger in Local Regional News

Jim Hammond and Chris Harvey are seen in this composite photo.

EARLY VOTING

Registered voters can cast ballots through May 1 at the locations and times below. All locations will by closed on April 18 for Good Friday observances.

• Brainerd Rec Center, 1010 N. Moore Road,

10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday

• Eastwood Church, 4300 Ooltewah‐Ringgold Road

10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday

• Election Commission, 700 River Terminal Road

8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday

• Northgate Mall, in location between Old Navy and Belk

10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday

As early voting in the May 6 county primary begins in Hamilton County this week, voters will have to choose between sheriff's office patrol Sgt. Chris Harvey, an 18-year department veteran, and incumbent Sheriff Jim Hammond to serve as the county's top law enforcement officer in the May 6 primary.

The candidates, both Republicans, are touting programs that reach youths.

Harvey said he would create a program to reach fifth- and eighth-graders to teach them about the effects of drugs and violence.

Images shown to students of drug users and the process of cocaine production, which Harvey described as a Colombian stomping on cocoa leaves while standing in a bath of chemicals, would leave a lasting impression.

"They're going to remember that," he said. "I think you'll see a significant difference in a few years."

Hammond said he hopes to incorporate the Explorers program, a hands-on training program for teens interested in a career in law enforcement, into schools' curriculum. He wants to increase internship opportunities and the presence of school resource officers in schools.

Harvey criticized Hammond's spending a few years ago when the sheriff gave out raises, and he questioned the need for a sheriff's department website. Hammond hired his son, Jimi, to manage the website. This year, Jimi Hammond made $44,236 compared to the average sworn deputy starting out at $35,421.

"To back my disagreement up, we did it [did not have a website] for nearly 12 years under Sheriff Cupp," Harvey said.

A new audit showed that the sheriff's office was in the black with an end-of-year fund balance of $1.9 million for 2013.

Harvey, who has a high school diploma, has worked in numerous units within the sheriff's office but he lacks upper management experience. He recently received an endorsement from the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 673.

Harvey said he is on the board of directors for the Dallas Bay Volunteer Fire Department which has given him experience in evaluating and voting on budget issues in cooperation with other board members.

"I don't claim to be a numbers man. ... I will surround myself, if elected, with people who are experts in these different fields. If they don't meet the standards, they are going to be hard pressed to keep their jobs," he said.

Hammond, who has never worked as a patrol deputy, has spent more than four decades in law enforcement, including 15 years working as a chief deputy. He has a master's degree.

He lost sheriff's races in 1994 and 1998 when he ran as a Democrat against Sheriff John Cupp. When Hammond lost the first race, he began working for the U.S. Justice Department training police officers in other countries.

He took office in 2008 when former Sheriff Billy Long was sent to federal prison after he was convicted of 27 charges involving theft, extortion, money laundering, drugs and weapons. Hammond won his first term full term in 2010.

He said he's most proud of the crisis intervention team that trains officers who to deescalate situations involving those who have mental illness and are in crisis. The program has been effective at the jail where an estimated 25 percent of inmates have some form of mental illness, he said.

Hammond also created a sheriff's foundation that was recently rebranded to reflect all of area law enforcement, AEGIS Law Enforcement Foundation of Greater Chattanooga.

The first program using foundation funds took place four months ago when area officers received training on cellphone technology.

Hammond, who struggles to keep the jail adequately staffed, said work is underway to get certifications from three corrections organizations. A new corrections academy class started last week. He hopes to start a discussion of building of a new jail.

"It won't be in my career. All I'm saying is we need to start thinking about that. ... Nobody wants to talk about spending that $50 or $60 million. I understand that. I think we would be remiss if we didn't have that discussion."

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