To supply law enforcement agencies with more training and technology and to sustain programs, Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond has announced a new fundraising organization.
Hammond unveiled the Hamilton County Sheriff's Foundation at a luncheon Thursday. Sheriff's foundations have become more common across the country as local budgets have dwindled or become stagnant in many areas.
"Those of us in government face very, very tight budgets these days," said state Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons, who spoke at the luncheon. "And frankly, we can't do everything we would like to do. Through this foundation, you can help the sheriff's office do some very important things that it otherwise could not do."
Since fundraising began in February, the Sheriff's Foundation has raised about $130,000. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee was one of 25 local companies that donated at least $5,000 toward the foundation's seed money.
"We wanted to donate to help provide peace of mind to the community. I can think of no better way to provide peace of mind than to have a safe, secure environment to live, work and play in," said Jack Price, chief security officer of BlueCross BlueShield. "So this is a very worthy cause, and we're very honored to participate in it."
The money will be spread out among all law enforcement agencies within Hamilton County, he said, and potentially could pay for programs set up through a community committee created to tackle gangs.
Hammond said he hopes to set aside a large amount of money and only use the interest. The foundation will be managed by the Community Foundation and overseen by three businessmen appointed by Hammond. The sheriff didn't say who those businessmen are.
Officials touted the foundation as an example of a partnership between law enforcement and the private sector.
"Law enforcement can't do it by itself," Gibbons said. "It takes the private sector and public sector working together."
Bradley County and the state are considering setting up foundations to bolster law enforcement funding.
Hammond said he does not anticipate any potential conflicts of interest between donors and law enforcement.
"I don't get involved in arrests. I don't get involved with my own family unless someone calls to get them out of jail," he said. "So the average officer won't know who donors are. That won't cut any ice. The law is the law."