Hamilton County Sheriff Gives Update At Friends Of Hixson Coffee Meeting

  • Thursday, April 18, 2024
Pictured, from left to right, are: Gracie Shamblin, director of scheduling for Senator Marsha Blackburn; Zach Brooks, Senator Bill Hagerty Representative; Nancy Hoover, director of communications for Bethel Bible Village; Andrew Guffee, Senator Blackburn Representative; Arch Trimble, Friends of Hixson board member; Steve Underwood, Hixson Home Depot manager; Charlie Hunt; Gary Behler, Hamilton Co. Juvenile Court clerk; Larry Zehnder, Friends of Hixson board member; Ron Bailey, Friends of Hixson board member; David Queen, Friends of Hixson board member; Tonja Bernard; Hamilton Co. Sherriff Austin Garrett; Greg Taylor, Friends of Hixson president; Lisa Taylor, Friends of Hixson VP; and Tim Hill, Friends of Hixson board member.
Pictured, from left to right, are: Gracie Shamblin, director of scheduling for Senator Marsha Blackburn; Zach Brooks, Senator Bill Hagerty Representative; Nancy Hoover, director of communications for Bethel Bible Village; Andrew Guffee, Senator Blackburn Representative; Arch Trimble, Friends of Hixson board member; Steve Underwood, Hixson Home Depot manager; Charlie Hunt; Gary Behler, Hamilton Co. Juvenile Court clerk; Larry Zehnder, Friends of Hixson board member; Ron Bailey, Friends of Hixson board member; David Queen, Friends of Hixson board member; Tonja Bernard; Hamilton Co. Sherriff Austin Garrett; Greg Taylor, Friends of Hixson president; Lisa Taylor, Friends of Hixson VP; and Tim Hill, Friends of Hixson board member.

At the Friends of Hixson Coffee Meeting, Hamilton County Sheriff Austin Garrett updated a large crowd on his first two years as Sheriff and his recent visit to the southern border.

Sheriff Garrett oversees a department of over 500 employees and is the fourth largest Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee. He said the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office prides itself on customer service and professionalism.

Sheriff Garrett discussed some of the HCSO's accomplishments regarding recruitment efforts.

When his term began, the HCSO faced a shortage of 120 officers. "Like other law enforcement departments in the United States, the HCSO faces staffing shortages and a decrease in recruiting new officers for several reasons, including compensation and public perception," he said.

Sheriff Garrett said his office has successfully increased compensation for HCSO employees and has focused on the department's professionalism. "The HCSO has brought in over 40 new officers, including some former NYPD employees, utilizing its website and other new recruitment technology," he said. Sherriff Garrett has not filled more senior positions, including his former position as chief deputy, to help increase compensation for his deputies.

Sheriff Garrett updated the attendees on the renovation and new construction projects at the Hamilton County Jail and reminded everyone that he lost 504 beds when the old jail closed. He also reminded everyone that the facility is called the Hamilton County Jail and not Silverdale. He drew laughter from the crowd when he stated that Silverdale is a church and school, not a correctional facility. Sherriff Garrett said he has reduced funded vacancies at the jail from 67 to 20, and the expansion should wrap up this summer.

He said continues to focus on staffing SRO Officers in local schools, including charter schools. He praised Governor Lee and the Tennessee legislature for providing the budget to staff these schools with SROs.

Sheriff Garrett also spoke about his recent trip to the southern border with Senator Bill Hagerty and how this visit allowed him to see firsthand the issues local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are dealing with regarding illegal immigration. He discussed his concern that many border crossings are from individuals not seeking a better life, but individuals with criminal histories and intentions and potential affiliations with terror organizations. He also reminded everyone that fentanyl continues to pour in from the southern border.

Sheriff Garrett concluded the meeting with a Q & A session where, several of the questions focused on the fentanyl problem and its dangers. He reminded everyone that any pill that is not dispensed from a pharmacy could contain fentanyl and should be considered potentially deadly.

The FOH Community Coffee Meetings are free and open to the public; all are welcome to attend. Visit friendsofhixson.org for information on upcoming meetings.

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