By David Tulis
The sheriff’s contest in Hamilton County is between a greater man and a lesser, between an officer whose scale of experience is global vs. the other whose is more local and provincial.
The seemingly superior man is Jim Hammond, the sheriff. The lesser is Chris Harvey, his challenger.
Mr. Harvey may be a less presentable man in public forum, less sophisticated. But an assessment of the steady gain of the American police state might suggest a vote in his favor, as he holds forth upon constitutional rights with simplicity and vigor.
Mr. Hammond, like Mr. Harvey, is a practicing Christian. Perhaps the observation here in the South seems trite, but it is significant because Christianity, unlike any other system of life and thought, is the basis of Western political liberty, democratic government, a decentralized order and capital. A man of Christian conviction is less likely to resort to extra-legal process, abuse of political rivals, or subjugation of people in his district by a reign of terror. In a newspaper interview, he quotes Micah 6:8, which says, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Jim Hammond is a man of great experience in peace keeping, a calling that today is called law enforcement to reflect the expansion of the modern total state. He nonetheless exercises his authority as the county’s top law and military with humanity and moderation. Little in the operation of the sheriff’s department suggests chronic problems that poison officers’ interactions with members of the public, embitter residents or make them fearful. Seen any viral police brutality videos lately arising out of the department’s traffic stops? I haven’t.
The sheriff’s background is more managerial than his challenger’s. He was chief deputy 17 years and has a high career in the police business. Mr. Harvey’s resume, his manner and speechways suggest a humbler origin and way of life. He rose in the ranks as jailer and patrolman. Mr. Harvey has been on the force nearly two decades, handling canines and detecting the facts in drug cases. Today he is a supervisor in the internal affairs department.
The local economy perspective
Your interest in local economy drives you to consider two related elements of Mr. Hammond’s stellar resume. In red, you ink two question marks in the right-hand margin. These strengths highlighted by Mr. Hammond in his website video and his tea party debate maybe aren’t as great as we might otherwise believe. Or, to restate, they may be too great, too superior.
One is his long career-enhancing work on foreign soil training cops in lands with little of the American heritage of law and liberty. The other is the great effort Mr. Hammond imposed on his staff to win certification in November 2013 of Calea, a national law enforcement group.
Service to foreign governments and living in lands of indecipherable tongues no doubt give a man perspective. It makes him appreciate being an American, being a Southerner. Mr. Hammond’s resume suggests these jobs were exporting American ideals to police departments that once may have operated as instruments of state terror. Mr. Hammond worked in 2000 and in 2002 in Romania, whose Departamentul Securității Statului, or Securitate, was one of the largest and most brutal secret police agencies in the world, lasting past the death of dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu until 1991. What, I wonder, was Mr. Hammond’s job there — to make the Securitate less effective? In 1996 Mr. Hammond was part of a law enforcement exchange with Russia. He “exported U.S. democratic police procedures through speaking and training at the international level including Haiti, Russia, Germany, England, Canada, Romania, Jamaica, the Middle East, Albania, and Moldova,” according to his resume. He was chief of training at the Jordanian International Police Training Center in Amman. The last sympathy you want to extend to Mr. Hammond is that he made these police agencies more adept, more comprehensive, more serviceable to their Mohammedan and other masters. Mr. Hammond served the American imperium and its clientele, some of whom have scarcely any concept of Anglo Saxon common law or Christian equity.
Living in foreign lands and serving foreign governments give a man an open mind. They make him see many ways of doing things rather than just the old way back in the home country. It makes a man more charitable, more encompassing, wiser than if he had stayed home. Living abroad makes a man more subtle, more supple, less fixed in his ideas, perhaps. Living in strange capitals with minarets and thronged bazaars gives him a grace and power the provincial man may not as easily exercise. Being away, we might suppose, and returning binds Mr. Hammond to Chattanooga and the county he serves, restores him with a thankful heart and a sense of affinity.
Yet these strengths in Mr. Hammond’s experience are his disability, particularly in light of continuing centralization of policing into a national enforcement superstructure sped up by the events of 9/11. The rise of the warrior cop, as Radley Balko tells it in a book of that title, is a nationalization of policing, its delocalization, its absorption into the occupier state that is the U.S. government. More than half of the people, a poll suggests, say the federal government is a threat to liberty. Two of three voters in a poll say the federal congress is a special interest group that looks out for its own interests. The police trend nationwide has been increase dependency and cooperation among local and national police.
National perspective, not local
The rise of police as military occupiers has many causes, but one result is the power national agencies obtain over local ones, to coerce them into cooperating with national or even global investigations and persecutions. Bill Binney, the former NSA operative, says national agencies with total surveillance build cases against a person in a given locale by a process of “parallel construction” to gain convictions without the prosecutor having to show any aid by illegal surveillance. A sheriff’s department with a national or international perspective is much more likely to cooperate in such adventures.
In keeping with this problem of national and international perspective, Mr. Hammond’s second disability is seeking approval of national organizations such as Calea. Its standards may help in recordkeeping and administration, but I suspect it makes the county department a better player on the national law enforcement scene. Why does a department of professionals need certification from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies? With a man like Chris Harvey on his staff, why would Sheriff Hammond need important visitors from afar tell him how to structure his operation? Seeking Calea approval suggests a fear of man wrapped in professional responsibility.
The sheriff is to fear no man. He is to fear no foreign government. Yes, sheriffs have morphed into law enforcers. But the older, nobler common law calling remains. That is: To uphold an ideal of liberty under law in this part of Tennessee. Its relationship with its people has changed against their property, legal and moral interests, but the ideal remains, the beacon of light that is the free market, a constitutional and free state.
Some theoreticals of the kind that Mr. Hammond gently evaded at the tea party event:
➤ If Mr. Hammond is reelected, will he stand behind Bill Knowles if the county clerk refuses to “obey” a supreme court decision saying gay marriage is a right under the federal constitution?
➤ Will he cooperate with federal authorities to suppress Occupy Chattanooga if it revives?
➤ Will he assist a federal agency bringing a specious criminal case against a local dissident or a group of progressives fighting big business over “ag gag”?
➤ Will he step up roadblocks in an effort to sniff out terrorists?
➤ Will he cooperate with the feds in mass warrantless searches of people’s homes after a bombing?
➤ Will he cooperate with a national directive saying tax protesters or illegal immigrants in the cash economy have to be harassed to get them into the banking and tax filing system?
Will he let the petty necessities from Washington become his diktats?
Mr. Hammond is a man of integrity and honor. There’s much reason to think he will resist such evils from afar if he is re-elected. But I think Mr. Harvey would be more jealous of rights of locals. He makes blow-hard statements at the tea party debate about the right to bear arms as if the feds might actually move to confiscate private arms. But I think that he is a simple enough and ordinary enough man to believe his stated views about the constitution and some of its blued-steel promises. Mr. Hammond, the advanced model, is more measured and cautious in his response to questions. Because he is nuanced and more mature, he will be more calculating as against constitutional rights and moves to reduce them than would be the plainer, simpler, more “local economy” candidate, Mr. Harvey.
David Tulis hosts Nooganomics.com on Hot News Talk Radio 1240 AM 1 to 3 weekdays. He is married, father of three children, and a deacon at Brainerd Hills Presbyterian church in Chattanooga.