Hamilton County Sheriff Hammond defends leadership in response to clergy call for transparency, accountability

Staff photo by Doug Strickland / Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond, right, and Chief Deputy Austin Garrett.

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond defended his department and leadership Wednesday in the first public response after dozens of local clergy called on his office to be more transparent and accountable.

"Transparency involves admitting when improvements can be made and acknowledging that despite the best efforts of any law enforcement agency, officers will make mistakes and will fall short," Hammond said in a statement. "However, I remain committed to the goals of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, and I stand behind my deputies and officers who sacrifice every day to protect and serve the citizens of this county."

On Sunday, Chattanooga Clergy for Justice sent a letter to Hammond and other local and state officials requesting the department make public its policies around officer training, use of force and the employment of officers involved in misconduct or excessive use of force.