March 8, 2012

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Policing, in and of itself, is a no-win situation. It’s a literal never-ending battle with never-ending hazards and never-ending blame. The rewards themselves are far and few between, but the greatest two have always been the self-satisfaction that keeps us going and the sense of brotherhood only those in combat, both domestic and abroad, can appreciate.

If that last sentence doesn’t make sense, then it’s nothing I can explain, but I can give an analogy when it comes to the quality of leadership of the men and women who serve in the situations I’ve described above.

George Armstrong Custer was one of the youngest generals in the Union Army during the Civil War, known for being brash, intelligent and personally courageous. He also, however, had the highest casualty rate of any in the Union Army because he is now recognized as a publicity-seeking huckster who was too ambitious for his own good and reckless with his men.

Our current sheriff is no Custer. Jim Hammond is the first to be concerned with the safety of his deputies, but the names of leaders who forsake their men in the name of convenience are less well-known to us, so extreme examples are necessary. Would Hammond pit 267 men up against several thousand Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors? NO.

But would he openly deny equal pay among his men and women because “it may open a Pandora’s Box to inspire other employees to seek the same fairness?”  

Apparently, yes.  

This is according to him (on tape), to his own Civil Service Board of Appeals and to the Tennessee State Court of Appeals. Custer was a general known for carelessness with the needs and welfare of his men. Different league, yes, but same sport. I’ll go toe-to-toe with anyone who argues this principal.

The issue at hand is a group of police sergeants being paid, well, whatever the sheriff sees fit, by no standards written or assumed. He even stated (this is the part that is on video with WRCB-TV) that it should be at “the sheriff’s discretion.” Five-year sergeants making the same as one-day sergeants in his command. Or 10 years. It made no difference. If a promotion was made of someone making the same as a current sergeant, a raise was still given despite the disparity—and there was no rule here, which sounds great … if you’re the sheriff, or the guy making the most pay, I suppose.

As it turns out, paying people more than one another for doing the same job for the same responsibility is “illegal” when done outside of the rules of a now-forgotten statute called “The Civil Rights Act of 1963.” (Specifically, the Equal Pay Act of 1964, a division of such. It’s a refreshingly short read, should you look it up, sheriff or otherwise.)

Paying people “at your discretion” leaves out space for equality among genders and races. Morale is irrelevant in the book of law, but that’s the only thing the High Sheriff of Hamilton County currently has going for him on most days, and apparently this isn’t one of those days.

The sheriff acknowledges the pay is unfair. He also says he won’t fix it because it’s too hard and not his fault. The courts say his excuses are irrelevant and fixing what is wrong is his job (which, as a sheriff, makes sense). How he does it is his problem, not his excuse—and that’s why me (and a few hundred sheriff’s deputies) are pretty freakin’ pissed off.

Jim, you are their elected leader. So looking to you for leadership should not be a shock or a burden, it should be a mandate. Provide it. Fight for it.



March 8, 2012

Comments (3)

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This is the first time in history that HCSO is over budget and every division is understaffed in man power. We have not had a raise in years but the command staff gets one for stepping up. I guess no one else with HCSO steps up. O! Wait, yes they do. Some get a challange coin. I suppose the coin will pay our bills. Brian I totally agree, It would be nice to see our Leader do the right thing and stop thinking about his part time friends.

more than 2 years ago

You got it, Brian.

...and on the same topic, THIS comment is one that's too good not to re-publish, despite how annoyed I am for not thinking of this itself:

(Eddy Chamberlin: ) "You know, former Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble actually sued his county commission and fought to pay for his deputies...too bad we don't have more like THAT guy. It's sad to have a Sheriff that actually sues so that he does NOT have to pay his employees fairly. Seriously. wtf?"

...I could have erased every word of my rant and only had to point out the above to make my case.

Alex Teach more than 2 years ago


Very well written article. Thank you for taking the time to write this on the behalf of our department since most are scared of speaking up due to the fear of further unfair treatment and furtherance of unfair treatment. I have taken the liberty to research the pay issue within my own division to find it is also seriously flawed. I truely hope the Sheriff will see the writing on the wall and as you suggested he will either Step up and do the right thing or Step Out allowing someone who has a true interest for the people of this department to fix the long self serving issues.

Brian Ashburn more than 2 years ago

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