Photo: Silverdale Detention Center at 7609 Standifer Gap Rd, Chattanooga, TN
Photo Credit: Google
Published January 7, 2021
Hamilton County, TN – The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is one of five across the state of Tennessee. In the last year, despite there being no notice given to the public, the office underwent reaccreditation virtually due to COVID-19.
A common practice of many local police departments is offering public information sessions when undergoing accreditation processes.
However, for reasons that can only be presumed as no official statement has been released, the HCSO chose to keep it private this year.
HCSO has been embroiled in a variety of legal issues as well as facing shifts in public opinion over the course of many tumultuous months, but they remained overseers for Silverdale Detention Center.
District Attorney Pinkston has accused the sheriff’s department of not cooperating with criminal investigations regarding allegations of brutality related to dashboard cam footage released to the public.
However, on January 13th 2020, the Office announced that the only server used to house data from dashboard cameras had failed without any backup.
The evidence necessary for a case including 44 criminal charges, supposedly lost. Court dates were then pushed back until March to allow for weekly reports of any recovered data. These dates were moved once again with the initial insurgence of COVID-19 in March 2020.
As these issues with the district attorney remain ongoing, Sherrif Hammond responded later in June stating that “when you’re dealing with human nature, when you’re dealing with hiring individuals, when you’re dealing with police officers who are out there their whole shift kind of as their own boss, you will get some bad apples. You will get some mistakes.”
When asked directly about the data loss, he expressed “I could only furnish what wasn’t in the crash… Anybody with any sense would know that once the crash happened, all bets were off.”
The HCSO has since released statements blaming the failures of a third-party software firm responsible for managing the data.
The Office also announced the implementation of a backup protocol in July, but remains under scrutiny as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has become involved in one particular case to ensure the proper processes are in place.
In these same months and those following, our local community and nation saw an uprising against police brutality that mounted the pressure on HCSO and its deputies. Allegations were made of excessive force in response to protesters due to the use of tear gas and what appeared to be violent arrests.
As the weather got colder and mass attention dissipated, there were a few quiet months for HCSO until November 7th when an inmate died in custody at Silverdale Detention Center. This occurred while the center was already under investigation for an inmate that passed away after being beaten in custody earlier in the year.
According to HCSO, “The investigation is pending presentment to the Hamilton County Grand Jury for possible indictment”
Despite these ongoing issues, in response to CoreCivic’s withdrawal after 35 years of managing the facility, HSCO announced on December 30th 2020 that they had officially seized full operational control of Silverdale. “This historic transition represents the end of an era as the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office assumes full oversight and operational control of the Silverdale Detention Center,” stated Sheriff Jim Hammond.
A mere four days later, on January 3rd, another inmate’s death was reported at Silverdale.
At this time, while the HCSO has full oversight and operational control of Silverdale, they are the same office that has been authorized to investigate the death. It appears that the cause of death listed for the public will remain “a medical emergency.”
While we always hope for the best from our elected officials, one can only imagine where the accountability lies within an office investigating themselves amidst so many other criminal allegations.