Chattanooga Sheriff launching nonprofit

Chattanooga Sheriff launching nonprofit

March 19th, 2011 by Dan Whisenhunt in News

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond says there soon will be a nonprofit fund to support law enforcement agencies in the county.

To avoid the cost and hassle of setting up his own nonprofit foundation, the sheriff said he will set the fund up through the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga.

Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd said he and Hammond will act as "gatekeepers" for the fund.

"Sheriff Hammond and I are lucky enough that we can afford more equipment than the smaller departments," Dodd said. "I'd like to see the lion's share of the money go to the smaller agencies."

The fund will be known as the Sheriff's Fund because the sheriff's office is its umbrella organization.

A three-member board selected from among fund donors will determine how the money will be spent based upon requests from law enforcement agencies.

"I don't want it to be seen as a sheriff slush fund," Hammond said.

The foundation will pay for technology, command training and projects to help law enforcement offices interact with the community, he said.

"The things I'm asking for are not what you normally ask for [in a budget request]," Hammond said. "This'll be all for things above and beyond."

Hammond said he's spoken with 30 potential donors, whom he said represent the "wealthiest individuals" in Hamilton County. Three donated $5,000 to help start the foundation, he said, but he disclosed only two names: Joe Decosimo of Joseph Decosimo and Co. and Michael Lebovitz, vice president of development for CBL & Associates Properties.

The fund has $15,000, Hammond said, but he hopes to raise $80,000 to $90,000 in "seed money."

Pete Cooper, president of the Community Foundation, said for the first few years the donations will be held in a low-interest rate money market fund.

"Now if he's very successful and someone wants to endow it, then we would change the investment mix to a longer-term investment," Cooper said.

Decosimo said he was convinced by Hammond's pitch, saying he believes the foundation will help make law enforcement more effective.

"I thought it was a pretty good idea, so I sent him the money," Decosimo said. "I hope it will help."

Lebovitz said the foundation is a "great example" of private businesses supporting the community.

"Sheriff Hammond is working hard to improve law enforcement in the community and we want to be supportive of his efforts," he said.