When Jim Hammond took office as Hamilton County sheriff in 2008, there were certain programs he wanted to see happen. Monday morning, he gave a quick list of accomplishments to the Pachyderm Club.
In general he said, the sheriff’s department has advanced technologically and is now comprised of more and better educated officers than in the past.
The number one goal was to improve communication with the staff of nearly 400 and with the public. This has been addressed with a monthly newsletter published online on the last day of each month. It is automatically emailed to employees, retirees and citizens can request to be put on the distribution list.
The website as a whole has been re-worked and now offers more interactive features. The public can request reports online, jobs can be applied for, and information about over 200 neighborhood watch programs is now available on that site. A crime can be instantly reported and tips can be made for solving a crime.
A reserve officer program is being used as a supplement to the sheriff’s department. These “reserve officers” must go through 80 hours of training, attend P.O.S.T. certification, and work a minimum of 20 hours per month. The volunteer supplemental officers are not allowed to make arrests and must ride in the back seat of a patrol car, but they do wear the same uniform and are considered to be extra hands.
The horse patrol has become an outsourced program and is considered to be a great tool for the department in the way of public relations, the sheriff said. Because it is contracted out, it is now less costly for residents of Hamilton County. Owners of the horses are responsible for veterinary care, feeding and housing, with the sheriff’s department being responsible for training. The rider must be a reserve officer
The Chaplain’s Program now employs 12 traveling chaplains to serve victims and their families as well as in the prisons themselves. Each of these must be a reserve officer.
There is also now a Marine division that has two boats and a sheriff’s underwater rescue team of five to eight officers who are certified divers. This department also has a robot provided by Homeland Security, which can go to the bottom of a body of water and search with lights.
The department is working on several accreditations.
The Sheriff’s Law Enforcement Foundation is run for the benefit of every law enforcement agency in the area. It has instigated practices such as using a video booth for arraignments so a prisoner does not have to be moved. Visitations to inmates are being set up by video as well, at a cost of $20 for a half hour. This technique has been paid for by the convicts themselves, and is safer and well-liked by lawyers and judges, he said. This method of communicating with prisoners reduces accidents as well as the cost of jail manpower.
As one way to keep youth busy in the summer, Sheriff Hammond hires 15 college or high school students each summer for jobs such as filing, cleaning and helping out in the office.
An extremely comprehensive annual report is now produced that details everything that goes on in the sheriff’s office. The purpose of this report is to inform anyone who may be interested of what is happening in this county department and to help determine what is needed.
A retiree’s annual luncheon is now scheduled once a year.
A public service announcement by Sheriff Hammond is another yearly event. It is done with a robo-caller. It is perceived that elderly citizens especially appreciate hearing from law enforcement, he said.
The sheriff along with a team of others in law enforcement participates with a police mission team. Each participant is responsible for raising money for the trip. This teaches how foreign law enforcement works and creates good will and relationships with the foreign governments, he said. This ultimately helps the U.S,. said the sheriff.
The Hamilton County Sheriff’s office also heads up a quarterly chiefs luncheon. The chiefs of all law enforcement agencies in the area meet to share information and identify their needs. As an example, at a recent luncheon, a speaker talked about how to use cell phones and computers to track crime.
A goal not yet realized, said Sheriff Hammond, is a way to intercede with at-risk students in elementary school. There is no effective program in place now, he said.
The Chattanooga Tea Party will meet Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the new Embassy Suites hotel on Gunbarrel Road. There will be three speakers followed by a question and answer period.
The Republican Women will hold a meeting Thursday at the Republican Headquarters. If not available to attend, members were asked to fill out a proxy.
The speaker next week at the Pachyderm Club meeting will be Senator Bo Watson, who will be talking about state government from his perspective.