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?”
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.
All you are doing now is falling in lockstep with John Cupp, Billy Long and your mentor, H.Q. Evatt, the same person who created the Civil Service Board you have sued when you asked them the (appeals) question. No one is impressed, and this fact should bother the hell out of you if you mean a word you say otherwise about being a leader and constitutional officer.
Saying you are a leader is easy. Being one? That takes guts. So does fighting for your guys, instead of suing them and those you had the audacity to ask for an opinion (the Civil Service Board exists for that reason, for the record).
Step up, or next election, step out. You have humiliated yourself and your men in this case. And you can disagree with me, but you’re also disagreeing with the Civil Service Board, the Tennessee Court of Appeals, and your own men. Do the math. Who is wrong in this equation? Suck it up and fix it, sir. We shouldn’t have to even ask.
Alex Teach is a full-time police officer of nearly 20 years experience. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/alex.teach.