Signal Mtn. chief defends sending more cases to sessions court - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Signal Mtn. chief defends sending more cases to sessions court

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The Signal Mountain Police Chief is defending a new policy when it comes to handling cases that involve arrests on the mountain. Instead of hearing the case in Signal Mountain court, the cases are being sent to the Hamilton County general sessions court.

Some Signal residents are concerned officers are spending more time and money going back and forth to Hamilton County for court. But the chief says the new method is more efficient, and sometimes, not as time consuming.

"This was just an easy way to cut out a lot of time with officers being off the mountain and not up here protecting the citizens," says Signal Mountain Police Chief Mike Williams.

When Mike Williams took over as chief for Signal Mountain earlier this year he asked his department for ways to be more efficient.

"That was one of the things that officers brought up to me, actually," he says.

In July, the department started taking more cases off the mountain to be handled in Hamilton County general sessions court instead of the town court.

"This only deals with custodial arrests," says Chief Williams.

Chief Williams says processing an inmate on the mountain can take up to three hours because of handwritten paperwork that has to be filled out.

"Down there it's one sheet of paper. Really one report. They do it in the computer. And they're generally back up here, from the time they arrest and take them down there, less than an hour."

As far as making more trips up and down the mountain he says the time evens out.
"If we're up here in court, we have to go down there and get them, have the hearing, take them back down to the jail and then come back up. If they have a bond hearing now in sessions court, they just bring the defendant in and the officer doesn't have to be there," says Williams.

He also says if the defendant pleads guilty, the officer never has to go to court. And if the case is a felony, the Signal judge would bind the case over to the Grand Jury anyway.

He says on average, if Signal officers have to go to court, they spend two to three hours in sessions court. He says officers already get over time pay as it is.
"They get two hours up here even if they're here ten minutes. That's the way the personnel policy works. It's not fair to them to get them in here off duty on their off days, or whatever, for 15 minutes."

He says 99 percent of the department's citations, around 50 a month, are still processed through town court.
"I haven't talked to the judge because I don't want him to think I'm trying to influence the way he runs his court. Because that's his court. And he does a good job with it," says Chief Williams. "It more than evens out, I think, and the officers love it."

The chief says on average there are only five to six cases a month that go to Hamilton County sessions.
He also adds it is not a mandatory policy. Officers can still do the manual paperwork if they want.

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