It has been more than 500 days since Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond has been under notice about the limits of the state shipping and transportation law. \
As the man who prepared the document and made it a public record, I waited for a year for Sheriff Hammond to make a reform to make his department operate consistently with state law in respect of the people and their personal liberties.
The sheriff’s office is the most important department in the county, with the sheriff having an ancient, common law role as defender of the peace and a protector of the people’s rights.
However, Mr. Hammond has made commitments to uphold an extra-legal but judicially approved arrest and harassment policy that offends the people in Hamilton County.
I gave him notice of the limits of the state shipping and freight law March 1, 2018. After waiting more than 400 days for a policy change, I made a brief address to the county commission and gave its members my analysis of the problem. My pitch had a very positive spin, suggesting that the reform would reduce risk to officers, save deputies’ lives and avoid the problem of officer shortage which is gripping the whole country.
I also submitted a written text, at the end of which I suggested reform as a simple and quick fix. But I made a point of not saying exactly what it is. Just to see if Randy Fairbanks, Chip Baker, Greg Martin, Warren Mackey, Katherlyn Geter, David Sharpe, Sabrena Smedley, Tim Boyd and Chester Bankston could be diverted enough from important matters in the county to ask.
Who wants to know?
However, not one commission member contacted me to ask what the reform is.
But on July 10 two deputies serving Sheriff Hammond did a brutal body cavity search on James Mitchell on a Soddy-Daisy roadside, and the uproar that followed prompted Commissioner David Sharpe to ask the key question: What might a reform look like? He’d heard my pitch, noticed I had given him a written document, and now believes he should seek to do something in the direction of improving justice in Hamilton County.
Want to know what the rest of the county commissioners may not know?
The reform is directing the officer to ask a single question of a person who has been arrested/stopped while using the public road for an ostensible traffic violation.
The question is:
Sir (or madam), are you using the road right now in a for-hire or capacity, moving either goods or people for pay in commerce?
That is the question to bring reform in the relation between the people and the government, both that civil authority is city, county or state government.
These parties all prosper in the status quo, which brings many criminal cases into their systems, and brings jobs for officers, jailers, clerks, administrators and others, and give an impression that the people are continually disorderly, confused, evil, and needing management, and that the state is good, true, a defender of all that is proper.
Municipal parties prosper with the imposition of a regulatory economy rather than a common law oriented economy with few cops, minders, regulators and enforcers. In that economy — one projected in my administrative notice as a status quo ante — the court is open to handle disputes resulting from an accident among users of the road. If there is no accident, no body, no corpus delecti, there is no crime and no offense.
My goal as broadcast journalist and blogger with the biggest pen in Chattanooga is to reduce arrest rates by 70 percent to 90 percent by insisting on the rights of the people and the limits of the law.
We don’t need new laws or legislative or political action. Just respect for law, and obedience to it.