Sheriff Jim Hammond Responds to Chattanooga Clergy for Justice
Hamilton County, TN - In light of recent concerns shared by certain members of our community, including the Chattanooga Clergy for Justice, Sheriff Jim Hammond is offering the following statement.
“As Sheriff, it is my duty to ensure the safety and protect the rights of all Hamilton County citizens, including those individuals in the custody of the Hamilton County Jail and now, the Silverdale Detention Center. As Sheriff, I have always welcomed recommendations and feedback from members of the community that I proudly serve.
In an effort to develop and strengthen relationships between the HCSO and our local minority community, I assigned Captain Van Hinton to serve as our Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Officer and created a Minority Relations Community Taskforce. This taskforce was formatted to be an advisory group in order to advance the HCSO’s goals of community-oriented policing (COPS) through recruitment, engagement, and transparency. Members of this taskforce have various backgrounds and many are members of the local clergy.
Throughout my career, I have developed numerous, longstanding relationships with members of our local clergy and value the insight they have offered regarding community relations. Through this insight and our own proactive measures, the HCSO has made improvements to our policies and procedures and enhanced our training in certain areas.
I recently received a letter from the Chattanooga Clergy for Justice in which my office is accused of resisting public calls for information in the form of “silence” when official HCSO policies are requested. To be clear, any citizen of the State of Tennessee is able to request copies of specific HCSO policies through an open records request pursuant to the Tennessee Public Records Act. We provide policies and similar records each time they are requested through the Public Records Act, as we have a statutory obligation to do so. We often receive these requests by the local media and are quick to comply when a specific policy is requested. We recently implemented a new online organizational tool, PowerDMS, so that we can soon make HCSO policies available to the public without requiring a records request. We look forward to this information being accessible to the public as we believe it will be informative and beneficial to the community and also will be more efficient for the HCSO.
Regarding the requests in the February 14, 2021 letter from the Chattanooga Clergy for Justice, I will address each request separately:
Request: “HCSO official policy and procedures guidelines on officer training and patrol services, especially regarding standards for “use of force” and for the medication and feeding of detained individuals.”
As a CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) accredited law enforcement agency, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office has over 484 existing policies. Hundreds of these policies involve officer training and patrol services. The HCSO can retrieve any existing policy that is specifically requested. Pursuant to your specific request, attached to this response you will find nine (9) HCSO policies that involve use of force.
Inmate medical care and food services are governed by the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI), the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC), and the American Correctional Association (ACA). All correctional facilities in the State of Tennessee are required to comply with all TCI standards in order to continue operation. TCI inspects every state correctional facility annually, and if deficiencies are found upon inspection, TCI will continue to inspect and review the facility until the deficiencies are corrected. The Hamilton County Jail last received TCI Certification in August of 2020. Silverdale, under CoreCivic operation, last received TCI Certification in October of 2020. The Hamilton County Jail was proud to also receive ACA and NCCHC accreditation. It is our intent to earn both ACA and NCCHC accreditation at the Silverdale Detention Center by the end of 2021.
The Sheriff’s Office has partnered with a correctional medical provider that has achieved NCCHC accreditation in other detention facilities and has a reputation for quality inmate care. For food services, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office partners with Trinity Services Group to provide inmates adequate meals with portions, calories, and nutritional quality that meet the standards described above. The HCSO remains committed to serving inmates at the Silverdale Detention Center three hot meals a day. The meals and menus that Trinity provides to inmates at Silverdale were included in the contract that Hamilton County signed with Trinity and subsequently, are a matter of public record.
Request: Clear answers related to staff development and internal training on official policies, including: 1. The regular schedule of staff development and training sessions, 2. personnel running and facilitating regular training sessions, 3. whether development and training sessions are mandatory for officers and how that is enforced, 4. frequency and expectations of officers going through development and training sessions.
All Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office deputies are required to attend and complete 40 hours of annual in-service training. Of the 40 hours of in-service for the 2021 year, 38 hours of the subject matter has been mandated by the Peace Officer Standards & Training Commission (P.O.S.T.) or is required for sustaining specific areas of proficiency and certification. The Sheriff’s Office has dedicated the remaining two hours to legal updates, as we feel that these updates can be a critical area for deputies to be aware of the most current case law, T.C.A., and procedural updates that may affect their day-to-day function.
The 2021 in-service class consists of the instruction in the following areas: Emergency Vehicle Operation, Mental Health, Child Sex Abuse, Officer Wellness and Mental Health, Defensive Tactics (baton, hands, OC spray, taser), Public Assembly Interaction, CPR & First Aid, De-Escalation and Duty to Intervene, Firearms, Legal Updates, and Community Immersion. The HCSO requires that deputies who attend training meet the minimum training standards. If they are unable to meet the standards, they then receive remedial training. If remedial training is not successful, they are then subject to reclassification or reassignment.
In addition to meeting the minimum standards required by the State, the HCSO offers an enormous amount of specialized training courses—this includes career development training, instructor level certifications, or training to become an expert in a specific field. For example, we are proud that many officers in our Criminal Investigations Division have been through the National Forensic Academy.
Throughout each year, all firearms qualified deputies participate in training that is in addition to the mandated eight hours of P.O.S.T., including the completion of use of force shooting scenarios in the firearms training simulator. The HCSO also complies with P.O.S.T. regulations that require newly promoted supervisors to attend leadership training.
At the end of each year, our Training Division completes a summary of the year’s Training Division activities. The summary of 2020 training division activity is attached.
The HCSO Training Division consists of the following full-time leadership personnel:
• Law Enforcement Training Division: Lieutenant Paul Maupin, Sergeant Jeremy Durham, and Deputy Marie Kurtz
• Corrections Training Division: Lieutenant Mike McGowan and Corporal Richard Womack
Our instructors consist of the most trained and experienced officers who have been certified to instruct on the full array of training subjects.
Request: HCSO official policies around hiring and firing of officers who use excessive force, including: 1. Officers who have been fired or decertified for misconduct involving excessive or unjustified use of force. 2. Officers who have received sustained complaints of misconduct involving excessive or unjustified force.
The Sheriff’s Office maintains multiple policies that govern the process in which a use of force incident is reviewed. The policies that involve use of force are attached to this letter—to accompany those policies and answer the questions in this specific request, you will also find attached five HCSO policies that govern Internal Affairs Investigations and Disciplinary Procedures if and when policy violations are sustained.
If it is determined by Internal Affairs that an officer has violated HCSO policy—including the use of excessive force—the officer will be disciplined pursuant to HCSO disciplinary procedures and the requirements of the Civil Service Board. If the use of force may rise to the level of criminal conduct, the incident will be investigated as a criminal incident and the case will be presented to the District Attorney for review and possible further investigation.
As Sheriff, my office and I respond to citizen and media inquiries each and every day. We provide information and records, including our official policies, dozens of times each week when requested by attorneys, criminal defendants, concerned citizens, journalists, or groups such as the Chattanooga Clergy for Justice. We strive to be transparent and, when necessary, willing to evaluate our policies so that we are constantly improving. 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. 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.”