Sheriff Hammond told members of the Pachyderm Club on Monday he is confident the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is capable of running both of the county jails after CoreCivic announced it was pulling out of its contract with the county at Silverdale after December.
“I do believe government can run it better and more efficiently if you’ve got good government,” Sheriff Hammond said. He added, “In terms of privatization, I think it’s time for the government to pick back up and take over. I know I can do it efficiently, but when you have 500 standards you have to comply with, you better be doing it right or they’re going to decertify you.”
The sheriff said law enforcement officers are now more “socially conscious” than in previous decades, and that they are more likely to be attentive to people’s individual needs.
He also pushed against the idea of the sheriff’s office as a “good old boy club,” citing the standards the department has to abide by.
“Sheriffs in particular have always been looked at as good old Southern boys, and that’s hard to overcome because it’s a generational thing,” Sheriff Hammond said. “But today, the biggest way to overcome it is for the public to understand groups like CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) that set the standard nationally…..They have told me there’s been a huge change in law enforcement, and that officers are more willing to engage and try and de-escalate the situation.”
Sheriff Hammond was present at the July 30 Lincoln Day Dinner, where he was photographed not wearing a mask. There was a COVID-positive person at that function. He gave his side of the story, and said key details were not known.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there, because I wore a mask to that event, had my temperature taken twice, and signed a waiver saying I would social distance,” Sheriff Hammond said. “I went in and ate a meal, and I don’t think you’d wear a mask when you eat. I believe that if someone wants you to wear a mask in a function or a public place, you should do it.”
He said he is not opposed to a mask, and will wear one out in public when going shopping or while doing other such tasks. However, he did express skepticism at the effectiveness of masks in preventing COVID-19.
“What I said is that I don’t think that all the evidence is in to say to what degree masks do or don’t work,” the sheriff said. “You can pick up any book or pamphlet or news and hear the pros and cons. During the same time we’re wearing a mask, we’re still touching everything.”
Sheriff Hammond was criticized for not taking a test after it became known that he might have been exposed to COVID-19. He said, “I’m not opposed to wearing the mask. But I’m opposed to someone else telling me to get tested, unless I’m symptomatic. If I’m symptomatic, I’m going to go down there and get tested.”
Sheriff Hammond also said if he was asymptomatic and tested positive for COVID-19, he would quarantine.
Sheriff Hammond has also expressed a desire to have more minorities/people of color in the Sheriff’s Office. He said that the biggest roadblock to making this a reality is a low salary.
“The easiest way (to have more minorities in the sheriff’s department) is to raise the salary, and get your councils and commissions to pay more, because people are attracted to the money,” the sheriff said. “And secondly, education. You have to try to mentor young people into the field.”
“I will say this, if you go out and ask 15 or 20 young people if they’ve ever thought of becoming a law enforcement officer, you’d be surprised at the number who say yes. So why don’t they? It’s usually because the salary is too low. So the interest is there, but the number one thing is that if we don’t get salaries up to where they make a good living and don’t have to take a part-time job, you’re not going to get the applicants.”