Chattanooga group calls for Department of Justice investigations

Local Clergy for Justice believes DOJ more "unbiased" than Hamilton Co. Sheriff's Office

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) — In light of recent events and allegations, a Chattanooga-based organization believes the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office cannot be trusted.

The Chattanooga Clergy for Justice penned a letter today to Hamilton Co. District Attorney Neal Pinkston concerning last month’s incident between Collegedale Police and driver Delane Gordon.

They are also concerned with how inmates are treated at Silverdale and believe these matters need to be inspected federally, not locally.

Rev. Dr. William Terry Ladd III addressed the letter to Pinkston.

The Chattanooga Clergy for Justice wants the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate a recent traffic stop in Collegedale.

The group believes Delane Gordon’s civil rights were “violated” and the officer used “excessive force.”

“We feel based on the legal counsel’s public statement about support of officers [as well as] the past history of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and their current use of force policy, not being willing to talk about that and negotiate changes in their use of force policy — we don’t feel that they’re the agency that should investigate the Delane Gordon incident,” Ladd III said.

In the letter, the group says they’ve “previously documented 19 instances of abuse by deputies since Sheriff Hammond’s election in 2008.”

Ladd says the clergy is not anti-cop, but believes the DOJ could provide a more “unbiased” investigation.

“We support police officers, but we don’t support police officers who violate citizens’ civil rights and use excessive force on citizens,” Ladd III said. “We don’t support that at all.”

The clergy’s letter also alleges that conditions in Silverdale Detention Center, run by the Sheriff’s Office, have, “led to deaths and reports of severe neglect, abuse, and excessive use of force.”

Pinkston read the clergy’s letter and said quote, “right now, it appears that Silverdale is one of the most dangerous places to be in our county, and that is unacceptable.”

Pinkston went on to say that he “will formally request that the D-O-J investigate the conditions and operation of Silverdale.”

“Part of my job is to request an independent investigation when merit-based claims come to us, and I can’t ask the sheriff to do it because some of the allegations are against members of his office,” Pinkston said.

In his response, Pinkston also said that “in light of the concerns expressed by the Chattanooga Clergy for Justice, he is withdrawing his request for the sheriff’s office to investigate the traffic stop in Collegedale.”

He will “instead ask the D-O-J to investigate that incident as well.”

Categories: Chattanooga, Featured, Hamilton County, Local News