Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond stands firm on gang statements

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond stands firm on gang statements

January 19th, 2012 by Beth Burger in News

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond speaks to the media in this file photo.


Chattanooga has sent a bid request for organizations to complete a gang assessment as part of a federal plan to combat gangs at a local level. Applicants should submit one original and six copies and one electronic copy of the proposal in a three-ring notebook. Proposals should be mailed to:

Artie Prichard

Purchasing Department

101 E. 11th St. G13

Chattanooga, TN 37402

Key dates:

* Proposals are due by 4 p.m. on Feb. 3.

* Interviews with selected consultants are tentatively set for Feb. 22 to Feb. 24.

* The city anticipates to select a consultant and begin fee negotiations from Feb. 27 to Feb. 29.

* The completed assessment is tentatively scheduled to be presented on Aug. 1.

Scope of work:

Among the issued to be addressed in the gang assessment proposal are:

* Identify data sources to help assess gang issues and resources;

* Identify most serious gang-related problems;

* Identify target groups for prevention, intervention and suppression efforts

Document: Gang assessment bid request

Gang assessment bid request.

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond continues to stand by a controversial statement he made last week about gang members, despite flak from some community leaders.

When it comes to dealing with hardened gang members, Hammond told the Brainerd Kiwanis Club, "We need to run them out of town, put them in jail or send them to the funeral home."

However, some community members fear such statements could cause friction between Hammond's department and Chattanooga police officers, who encounter far more gangs than county sheriff's deputies.

"When he makes statements like that, it doesn't really involve him or a lot of his officers, but it complicates things for the ones who have to deal with the situation every day," said Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd, who asked Hammond to retract his statement.

Hammond has said he has received "overwhelming" support for what he said at the Kiwanis event.

"Gangs have become a scourge to our own county as well, and while the bulk of the problem lies within the city of Chattanooga, it is becoming a regional problem as gang members try to spread into the areas surrounding the city," Hammond said in a prepared statement. "We must take a hard-line approach to this problem."

The sheriff said he is commited to "a no-nonsense, no lip service and no political rhetoric approach to peace and security for our officers and for all our citizens."

Law enforcement officers, he said in the statement, "will stand in the gap between good and evil and protect the good citizens of Hamilton County."

Some members of the black community have criticized Hammond, saying he was giving law enforcement the green light to open fire on black youth labeled as gang members.

Napoleon "Donut" Williams, who was the city's first black detective in 1968, said Hammond's statement about sending gang members to the funeral home puts officers at risk.

"It's going to be open season for police officers. Jim Hammond is stirring up a nest between police and gang members at a time when AK-47s are making their way onto the street," Williams said. "He needs to retract that at a news conference. I'll stand up there with him. It was a bad choice of words."

The gang issue has gained more attention after more than half of 2011's homicides in Chattanooga were considered gang- related by police. Out of 94 shootings compiled by the Times Free Press, at least 37 -- nearly 40 percent -- were labeled gang-related by investigators.

Both Hammond and Dodd are part of a recently formed steering committee to implement a federal plan to not only suppress gangs but to foster prevention efforts by coordinating local organizations. Hammond said he hopes to start placing school resource officers -- which fall under the sheriff's office -- in elementary schools.

Hank Hill, a local criminal defense attorney, said some of the things Hammond listed aren't necessarily legal -- such as running people out of town or shooting them.

"I would think that the sheriff's job is to deal with the problem, not 'run them out of town,'" Hill said. "I think it's very shortsighted on his part to make these kind of statements."

POLL: Do you agree with Sheriff Jim Hammond's hard-line stance on gangs?

When criminal cases at the sheriff's office go to trial, defense attorneys will more than likely use his statement in court to show the mindset of law enforcement officers within the agency from the top on down, Hill said.

"I think it's relevant," Hill said. "It's not the role of law enforcement to shoot first and ask questions later."

Dodd said Hammond does not speak for or represent city officers.

"One thing I want to make perfectly clear: The sheriff does not speak for the city of Chattanooga, the Chattanooga Police Department or its 600-plus employees," Dodd said. "Any comments or any statements he makes that are inflammatory like that, they will hopefully be attributed to him and what he does control.

"All of this has led up to a situation where the sheriff makes a statement, then people throughout the community and law enforcement executives have to respond to them."