It's time for a change: Harvey is best choice for Hamilton Sheriff

It's time for a change: Harvey is best choice for Hamilton Sheriff

April 17th, 2014 in Opinion Times

Chris Harvey

Photo by Erin O. Smith/Times Free Press.

Hamilton County Sheriff: Chris Harvey

An 18-year veteran sheriff's deputy and investigator in the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department is looking to unseat his boss as the county's sheriff.

We think that's a good idea, and we endorse Chris Harvey.

Harvey, 41, has a wide range of experience as a law enforcement officer -- from jailer to K-9 officer to internal affairs detective to patrol supervisor -- and he would bring that experience to bear should he defeat 69-year-old Jim Hammond.

Hammond counters that his own experience as an administrator and manager trumps Harvey's.

"I am a politician. My job is not to be out on the street on patrol. My job is to be an administrator," Hammond has said.

But it is Hammond's management and administration -- sometimes the lack of it -- that makes us believe it's time for a change.

For the last several years, Hammond has struggled to stay within his budget after he finished the 2011 fiscal year over his nearly $28 million budget. County commissioners had to vote to give him an extra $325,000. The following year, the county finance department audit showed him over budget by about $275,000, but commissioners declined to make up the difference, according to newspaper archives.

He kept on the payroll (after a suspension) a deputy who exploited his authority and initiated an inappropriate relationship with an underage girl who was involved in the department's Explorer Post program.

He hired his son at an inflated salary to be the department's full-time webmaster.

Hammond also has trouble with what he says: He has said that people are afraid "because we have a black president," and he has declared that he would send gang members "to the funeral home." But all the while, he allowed a convicted former sheriff's deputy (and Hammond's friend), Lonnie Hood, to do community service work at the jail.

Harvey says those things bring shame to the sheriff's department, and morale is the lowest he's seen there in 18 years -- even lower than when Hood pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 1998 to 5 1/2 years for conspiring to distribute anabolic steroids, conspiring to extort money from inmates for contraband tobacco, tax fraud and money laundering. Morale is even lower than when former Sheriff Billy Long was convicted in 2008 on drug conspiracy, firearms, money laundering and extortion charges.

It's true that Harvey doesn't have administrative experience. A stronger challenger for Hammond would be nice. One retired former law enforcement officer here says he wouldn't endorse anyone running now unless John Wayne or Clint Eastwood showed up.

But that won't happen this election year.

We believe Harvey, though politically more conservative than we like, has integrity and will grow in the job. He already has demonstrated that he can do that -- rising through the ranks at the department for 18 years and being trusted enough to be an internal affairs investigator.

He thinks education and mentoring are better approaches to gang problems than funeral home threats.

He says he would reverse Hammond's trend of diverting salary money from officers to created civilian positions that previously were volunteer positions. That would put more officers in the jail and more deputies on the streets, according to Harvey.

With no Democrats seeking the office, the primary winner will be the next sheriff.

We endorse Chris Harvey.