I was going to write a bit on the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office this week, but in a rare fit of problems I normally consider “good to have,” I don’t know where to start.
Let’s start with the light stuff, in which Sheriff Jim Hammond literally sued his own men “to prevent a trend of having to equalize pay for everyone.” (Insert awkward pause here.)
I have my usual research in front of me to flesh this out a bit with dates and details, but what more do I really need to say? He took this to the State Supreme Court on May 3.
Just three days earlier, on April 30, in a separate issue, Hamilton County Assistant District Attorney Steve Smith filed a motion in Sessions Court to reinstate a case against one Lonnie Hood, who had charges stemming from a traffic stop and arrest for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Why do I bring this up, you ask?
During the stop that led to Hood’s New Year’s Eve arrest, the arresting officer was given the CLASSIC speech of “Do You Have Any Idea Who I Am?” by Hood.
This did not have the desired effect (which is generally the case, if you were wondering), but unlike others, when Hood arrived at the jail, the (literally) self-proclaimed “Top Cop” in Hamilton County personally called the jail he oversees to have this man give him a call. Shortly thereafter, the sheriff calls on-duty Magistrate Sharetta Smith asking that she allow Hood to be released without having to make a bond (known as “Own Recognizance”). Like the arresting officer, I believe she smelled the home cooking and gave him $2,000 in bonds like she would anyone else that didn’t have the sheriff intervene on their behalf.
Hood goes on to court and is found guilty by Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck, who gives him seven days of community service as a sentence (the same as any other citizen). And, unlike any other names he could produce, the Constitutional Officer again steps in and asks Hood to spend those seven days in the actual sheriff’s department buildings doing work for him.
Why is all this pertinent? Because Lonnie Hood was federally indicted on Dec. 9, 1997, for charges that included distribution of steroids, smuggling tobacco, jury tampering, escape efforts, transfer of counterfeit money, money laundering (to the tune of $1 million), obstruction of justice, intimidation of witnesses, perjury and tax offenses—all while working for Hammond since 1991.
Besides serving five-and-one-half years in prison, Hood also forfeited more than $250,000 in assets that were ultimately (and ironically) dispersed amongst the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and both the Chattanooga and Red Bank Police Departments. (Betcha’ forgot that part, guys.)
I’m spelling this out to show that this was no “aberrant behavior,” dear readers.
And finally, when Hammond expressed towards disappointment in this in 1998, Hood had the audacity to retort, “All I can say is a man who lives in a glass house should not throw stones … I’m sure you can figure out what I mean. That’s all I am going to say about it for now.”
So what does the Constitutional Officer do? He has this same man work on his 2008 election campaign and gives him the hookup during his recent arrest. Suspicious yet?
My point is this: The sole reason Jim Hammond is sheriff is because his predecessor (Billy Long) is sitting in a federal prison for, among other things, corruption in the vein of extortion, drug dealing and associating with felons. Sound familiar?
This is our sheriff—the best we can do. And rather than operate differently, he suggested we express our concerns with our votes.
Speaking as a trained investigator and a citizen, I have to agree. Do you?
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.