Hamilton County Sheriff responds to call for 'citizen oversight board'
Following the launch of an investigation into two Hamilton County Sheriff's deputies, one group is calling for a 'citizen oversight committee' to help hold the agency accountable.
"I would also like to know what kind of training our officers are receiving on what is legal and what is not legal when they pull people over in Hamilton County," Hamilton County Democratic Chairwoman Khristy Wilkinson said while addressing Hamilton County Commissioners.
This comes just one week after video released by the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office showed two deputies punching, kneeing, and strip searching a man in handcuffs.
"We saw the dash cam footage and were appalled. We believe that every individual in our community regardless of alleged criminal activity deserves human decency," Mari Smith with Moms for Social Justice said during the meeting.
Sheriff Jim Hammond has responded to that call, saying he doesn't believe there's a need for any more oversight of his agency. That's because there are already several groups the HCSO answers to and that there are other ways he's working to better community ties.
During an interview, Hammond told Channel 3 he stands behind the actions of his officers, who are on paid leave pending a criminal and internal investigation.
He says his department is already working to improve relationships between law enforcement and the community.
"I cannot tell you one thing that is not being done to improve because let's face it, the most sensitive agency, government agency, is those who carry guns because we have the power to take a life and we don't take that lightly," he explained.
Hammond says doesn't believe a citizen's oversight board is the answer.
"I don't think we need another oversight committee. I think we need to make sure we're comfortable with what's out there, (and) that we follow the policies," he said.
The Civil Services Board, the Hamilton County Commission and a national non-profit called the Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies or "CALEA" all oversee the sheriff's office.
"They inspect us two and three times a year. Sometimes by surprise. We have to go through re-certification every three years to make sure we're adhering to policy and the latest standards on how to deal with these kinds of situations," he said.
Sheriff Hammond believes the focus should be on hiring more people of color.
"If you have a better balance, you've got more oversight from your officers themselves and they think, 'okay, we know we're here, we know we're trained, we know we're fairly treating the African American community, the white community, the Hispanic community'," he continued.
Channel 3 took a poll of commissioners on the issue. When asked if they would be in support of a citizens oversight committee, five out of nine said they were 'undecided'. Those five were Commissioners Bankston, Baker, Boyd, Martin and Smedley.
District 1 Commissioner Randy Fairbanks was against the idea. Channel 3 is still waiting to hear back from three others.
Channel 3 also reached out to members of Moms for Social Justice through the group's Facebook page for further comment. They declined that request for comment.