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In July 2019, after a video surfaced of white officers beating, kicking and strip-searching a handcuffed Black man, 50 or so Black leaders stood on the Hamilton County Courthouse steps with one clear message for the sheriff.

"Jim Hammond, your department is terrorizing black bodies," declared Timothy Careathers of Westside Missionary Baptist Church. "Resign."

That same summer, the Unity Group sent a seven-page letter to the US Department of Justice, asking for an investigation into the "pattern or practice of misconduct" by the sheriff's office.

In September, the department responded.

"We can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any ongoing investigation. In this instance, we are aware of these allegations and have had discussions with the Federal Bureau of Investigation," assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Neff wrote to the Unity Group's Sherman Matthews.

Last week, another roadside video surfaced. Five white officers beat a handcuffed Black man for more than five minutes.

"Piece of f — — s — —," one officer says.

Piece.

Of.

F — — .

S — —.

Once again, it remains clear.

Hammond needs to resign.

For years, Hammond's comments have revealed beliefs and states of mind unfit for 21st century policing.

After the July 2015 shootings, Hammond falsely stereotyped Tennessee Muslims, warning local Republicans of a Muslim takeover.

"Islam is communism with a god," he said. "They have built a structure to take over this country. And many of the pieces are in place."

Three years earlier, speaking to a local Kiwanis Club, he offered three solutions to gang violence.

Run them out of town.

Arrest and jail them.

"Or send them to the funeral home," he said.

He encouraged the school board to arm its teachers. Earlier this year, his office lost more than a year's worth of dash-camera footage. During recent protests, his officers used tear gas. Lawsuits have been filed accusing his office of not responding to records requests. The county jail is overcrowded, understaffed and a human rights crisis.

Piece.

Of.

F— — .

S— —.

In 2018, a white county detective is seen on video punching and kicking a handcuffed Black man.

In December 2019, a white county deputy was indicted on 44 criminal charges. Multiple lawsuits accuse him of illegal searches, a forced baptism and the groping of female minors.

In July 2019, that same deputy and another white deputy punched, kicked and strip-searched a handcuffed Black man on the side of the road. The NAACP compared the moment to "rape."

In February 2020, an officer was sued for allegedly beating a man whose family had called 911 because he'd had too much to drink.

And now, this recent video from May: two days before George Floyd's murder, five white county officers beat a handcuffed Reginald Arrington Jr. for more than five minutes.

Piece.

Of.

F— — .

S— —.

He'd been walking on the side of an Ooltewah road. A woman called police: there's a suspicious-looking Black man.

Arrington said his car was broken. Said he was lost.

Officers claimed he was violating a pedestrian-on-roadway law.

So they begin to arrest him.

Why?

Why arrest this man?

What is present within the hearts and minds of these officers that they believe the proper way to respond to a walking-and-lost Black man is to arrest him?

Handcuffed, he was led to the police car; he became combative, officers said.

Then, the batons.

"THIS is not how its supposed to be done," Chattanooga's assistant police chief Glenn Scruggs posted. "I acknowledge that cop work can oftentimes be volatile but here's the thing, once the cuffs go on, the fight is over."

Scruggs, a 26-year veteran officer who's also running for state Senate, is one of the finest cops I know.

"I fully support our local officers & deputies. A big part of doing that is praising them when they do great work, AND correcting them when they fall short," he said. "We missed the mark on this one."

The county mayor has remained silent.

White commissioners, silent.

"My God. It's the new Rodney King beating," cried national critic Shaun King. (His Instagram re-post of the video has been seen more than 1.3 million times.)

"We call it brutal. We call it immoral. We call it unjust," declared Matthews and Eric Atkins of the Unity Group.

Days ago, 19 corporate leaders — from BlueCross BlueShield to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce to US. Xpress — signed a full-page ad pledging "solidarity against racial injustice."

"We're committed to taking action for real change," they declared.

This is your chance. Will you speak out?

I do not write this out of malice, but of abiding, urgent concern: foremost for Black citizens, yet also for county officers.

When you beat a man, he suffers.

But so do you.

When you beat a man, you ignore his humanity.

And lose sight of your own.

He is not a piece of f— — s— —.

None of us are.

He is a child of God walking down the wrong side of the road.

David Cook writes a Sunday column and can be reached at dcook@timesfreepress.com.

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David Cook
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