Sheriff Hammond wants to raise salaries

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CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – It’s difficult to operate an effective law enforcement agency with high turnover.

That’s the message from Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond, who is asking for an increase of more than $5-million in next year’s budget.

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News 12’s Ashley Henderson learned more about the retention problem in a meeting with the Sheriff.

The Hamilton county sheriff’s office is chronically short-handed.

And according to Sheriff Jim Hammond that’s because other organizations are outbidding them for the best employees.

“The most significant request was, is that we do correct an issue that’s been there for 8 or 9 years, and that is the STEP plan for officers, which has fallen further and further behind, so I went over there asking for about 4 million dollars to correct that problem.”

The sheriff and other staff members gathered to recognize the staff at the downtown jail and those who are serving in a similar capacity at the Silverdale lock-up…which is essentially the county jail now.

But it was also an opportunity to talk about funding for the next fiscal year. Hammond told the Hamilton county commission on Wednesday that he needs an increase of 5.6 million dollars.

“We have gotten to the point that we cannot meet the basic police package that other departments can, we lose too many officers that transfer over to other departments because the pay plan is better there.”

There are now 14 openings for patrol officer and another 17 for corrections officers at the jails.

Some of the additional funding–about $380,000.. would be used to ease the chronic and expensive problem of transporting the mentally ill.

Hammond has been saying for years that they need special services and should not be in the county jail. A bill in the legislature would also funnel money to that issue..which is creating problems in most jails in the state.

“Many of those patients do have insurance and we feel like those with insurance, those burdens should be picked up by private carriers, when we have to do more and more transports, it takes away more and more officers from doing their duties in the jail, so it’s created quite a problem, not just here in Hamilton County, but across the state.”

It will be up to the Hamilton County Commission to allocate any extra funds requested by the Sheriff’s office.

In Chattanooga, Ashley Henderson , News 12 Now.

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