published Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

David Cook: Mercy and jail

Justin Tabor — the Hamilton County deputy sheriff who bought beer for teenagers — still has a job. Thousands of recession-hit people don't, but this guy does.

For the life of me, I can't understand why. Every bartender or waitress for miles would have been fired before the foam settled; buying booze for kids is a crime. Literally.

"A Class A misdemeanor,'' Tennessee Annotated Code law states.

It's double-wrong because the guy had a badge, which means he's supposed to act above the law. Miles, miles above the law.

It's triple-wrong because the four teenagers he drank Bud Light with were in the Explorers, a well-intentioned program that lets kids ride along with cops on patrol.

It's quadruple-wrong because, according to an internal affairs investigation, Tabor shared a bed, but did not have sex, with one of the teenagers, the report found. According to this teenager, there was no sexual contact between her and Tabor until she was 18, the report states.

So why did he get a punishment that seems lighter than the beer he was handing out?

"I wouldn't say it was light," Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond said.

Hammond suspended Tabor's pay for 132 hours, put him on probation for a year, removed his duties as a patrol officer and reassigned him as a correctional officer, which means he works in the jail (most of the time without a gun) instead of the streets and loses his patrol car, powers of arrest and a big chunk of pay.

"There is a world of difference between the duties of a correctional officer and a patrolman," the sheriff said. "This guy is not a policeman. He lost all of that."

The 16-page IA report includes interviews with four juveniles and Tabor himself. The teens -- whom Tabor met through the Explorers program — say the officer bought them beer multiple times. (None of it occurred while Tabor was on duty.)

Tabor, whom Hammond said is 25 years old, admitted to sleeping in the same bed with one teen during a two-night trip to a Gatlinburg, Tenn., cabin. The girl's mother was with them on the trip.

"The parents of the juvenile victims do not wish to pursue criminal charges against Deputy Sheriff Tabor concerning this matter," the investigation reads.

Why why why not? Are they afraid of retaliation? They don't want to drag their kids through a public spectacle? But doesn't that mean ...

"You don't have a case if they don't press charges," Hammond said.

Make no mistake: Tabor's the one who blew it in this story. But since being elected, Hammond has portrayed himself as the ethical lawman. He writes about ethics, speaks about ethics, has created a foundation to raise money to provide training in ethics for local law enforcement.

Shouldn't the ethical lawman have quickly fired the unethical deputy?

"There was a degree of mercy in this," he said. "I very highly believe in people being able to feed their families and retain their jobs. ... It is very difficult to just take somebody's job away."

Usually, I'm a sucker for mercy. Aren't you?

Mercy is sweeter than wine when it's applied fairly, evenly, to all. Few things have the power to crack open the human spirit like mercy can. Hammond knows this, too.

But when it's doled out unevenly — when some draw a good hand but others don't — mercy loses its flavor, and starts tasting more like favoritism.

Hammond, a lawman with a preacher's heart, is still a lawman. His job is to enforce the law, not diminish it. If he won't let Jimmy around the corner off the hook when he gets caught buying beer for kids, then he shouldn't have any less punishment for Tabor.

"You might get another sheriff that fires everybody. I like to practice a little more mercy," he said.

In the end, it's your call, Hamilton County residents. Was the sheriff merciful and just, or just unfair?

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
daytonsdarwin said...

There's one thing I disagree with Mr. Cook. You wrote, "Hammond, a lawman with a preacher's heart, is still a lawman. His job is to enforce the law, not diminish it."

In truth, Hammond, a politician with a conman's heart, is still a self-serving liar. His job is to enrich his wallet, payoff his pals, and use his power to promote his own well-being.

May 7, 2013 at 7:20 a.m.

Mr Cook , c If a person is convicted of Class A misdemeanor Purchasing or Providing Alcohol to a Minor, he or she may be sentenced to up to eleven months and twenty-nine days in jail and a fine not to exceed $2,500.00. Additionally, persons convicted under this statute must perform at least one hundred (100) hours of community service work........
Now compare to the following punishment..Hammond suspended Tabor's pay for 132 hours, put him on probation for a year, removed his duties as a patrol officer and reassigned him as a correctional officer, which means he works in the jail (most of the time withouta gun) instead of the streets and loses his patrol car, powers of arrest and a big chunk of pay.I would say that 132 hrs of pay would be equivalent to 2500 for a deputy and givin our local courts any of us without previous apperances would be granted a suspended sentence/probation for 1 year so that seems equal as well and lastly this officer has to live with his mistake everyday as he clocks into the jail instead of being on the street doing what he has spent years training for. I believe that would be the worst part of the whole thing. Knowing that each day he has to go smell that smell and be surrounded by the violent hate. Now I know nothing of the people involved nor had I heard of this instance before reading your piece but something about it bothers me. I have read many of your works here and it seems that most of the time you are trying to help people. Bring them up. You beg for second chances for gang members, join task forces and tend to listen and offer help to the weakest among us. Then you write about the police and your tone changes. I will not defend this man's actions but a little journalistic restraint might be in order. Squeeky breaks and allegations of police brutality..... Racial profiling of hispanics.... good ol boy treatment by the sheriff... these are a few that come to mind. You have the bull horn and the police take the bulls..t. They take it everyday. They do the things we cannot, willnot. Then you use your talent to write about the slightest appearane of impropriety. In this instance you have eluded to statatory rape and coercion. Both felonies. Of course you didn't use those words but you left this reader with that impression. Wasn't that the point? Sensationalizing without the liable? So please Mr Cook, go on that ride along, learn what these officers go through everyday and maybe just maybe you could write a peice on the good that they do. After all they are human too.

May 7, 2013 at 9:27 a.m.
rumrunr said...

because a policeman is the public face of the law, he must lead by example. there is no room for error.

May 7, 2013 at 9:43 a.m.
Leaf said...

In response to DJHBrainerd, you have some valid points about the appropriateness of the punishment and I don't think it is out of line.

However, the police have been given extraordinary powers over citizens, and they should be held accountable to the law - especially in Chattanooga which has an ongoing history of rampant police corruption.

I'm tired of this worn-out notion that the police are somehow heroic and self-sacrificing all the time. Some of them are some of the time, but mostly they just like to carry a gun and have authority. The citizens need to police the police, and stop putting them on a pedestal.

May 7, 2013 at 10:15 a.m.

Thank you leaf you and rumrunr are both correct. There is no room for error when you are a public figure. And in no way was I trying to justify any of the actions taken by any party involved. My issue was with the innuendo in the article. Hinting at something more, writing as if this man got away with something when in fact he will be punished for the rest of his career and the feeding on peoples mistrust of police in general that struck me as wrong. I understand this is an editorial but Mr Cook reaches a large audience and I would hope in the future to see an OP ED showing the charity work/volunteer work that the police are involved in as opposed to the red meat he seems to offer to like minded individuals.

May 7, 2013 at 10:49 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

In today's paper 17 kids arrested for underage drinking. Apparently they didn't have the DA's phone number or the Sheriff Jimbo Hammond (that paragon of virtue) "Get Out of Jail" special discount card for campaign contributors.

Next time, kiddies, stop by the Sheriff's office first, make that contribution, and ask Deputy Tabor to give you recommendations for package stores and motels. Ask about the special Ride Along, Drink Along, and Sleep Along program for Explorers.

May 7, 2013 at 1:13 p.m.
timbo said...

Finally a subject with which I can agree with Mr. Cook. This looks really, really bad. I won't be voting for Sheriff Hammond

May 7, 2013 at 7:24 p.m.
shen said...

There's been numerous times city cops have gotten caught dallying around with underage girls, DUI, DWI, domestic violence and many of you now going after sheriff Hammonds looked the other way. Made excuses for the cops and chalked it all up to They're human too. They make mistakes.

Would you all be attacking the sheriff if his deputies had busted some poor inner-city youths attending public school outside some housing project instead of busting up a party of drunken teens, and who knows what else, at a home on Signal Mountain and the youths attend private schools? You'd not only want the youths heads on a platter, but their parents too.

What if those teens had left the party driving drunk and/or stoned and killed some innocent person on the road or wrapped themselves around a tree, killing everyone inside the vehicle like those other teens did years ago going around a sharp curve in North Chattanooga? How many times do you think they'd been caught prior and given only citations? Wish we all could be so lucky to receive only a citation when we're accused of some minor traffic violation such as running a stop sign or going 1 mile above the speed limit. Or is it only luck until a serious accident with casualties taking place? How many lives might have been saved if those teens killed or killed someone else while drunk/stoned and driving had been required to take responsibility for their actions, or their parents held responsible when they knowingly allow their teens to drink, do drugs, as you already know some of these parents are very much aware, even allowing it to a certain degree.

So don't come here with this B.S. attacking the sheriff for doing his job, or even not firing his deputy. It's happened numerous occasions with city cops, and no one raised an eyebrow. In fact, most city cops received promotions.

May 7, 2013 at 9:09 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

The Sheriff leads by example. That's the reason the HCSO is in trouble. Sheriff Jimbo has lost more than his hair — his credibility left the building a long time ago.

So far this last year it was only the city cops who nearly beat a suspect to death, so that's record to be proud of.

Street gangs learn from the cop gangs.

May 7, 2013 at 9:29 p.m.
shen said...

daytonsdarwin, isn't that the purpose of all law enforcement, and not just HCSO? That is to lead by example. Be they city, county, public housing law enforcement, they are to still LEAD BY EXAMPLE.

The point here is, every since Sheriff Hammonds arrested those little darlings drinking in the woods up dar in Apison TN, there's been a behind the scenes campaign to get rid of him. One individual in particular stated out and right here on a TFP discussion story about the teens that the sheriff didn't have to worry about getting relected. B-cuz, in that persons' illogical theorization, they saw nothing wrong with what the teens were caught doing because their parents before them, and the individual posting comment, had done the same as teens and were never held responsible for their actions.

And it doesn't matter when the last time a city cop got caught with his pants down with some underage teen, DUI, DWI, domestic violence etc. What matters is, 1. they weren't fired. 2. some weren't even reprimanded. 3. Prior leadership had a reputation for sending their goons to the homes of individuals to warn, even threaten them against filing a complaint, placed them under surveillance 4. openly follow them around town to reinforce the threat/warning. That they meant business DON'T COMPLAIN 'bout our fine officers, or else! 5. they're still on payroll, and received promotions. So much for that leading by example wouldn't you say?

May 8, 2013 at 9:45 a.m.
jesse said...

I kind of get the idea that Mr.Tabor has a lock on Hammonds that he don't want to get out!

May 8, 2013 at 9:59 a.m.
shen said...

If that's the case, jesse, then a helluva lot of local cops in all the agencies operating locally must have locks on their leaders too. Because some have gotten off extremely lite after having committed some pretty nasty and vile acts.

May 8, 2013 at 10:02 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

I'm not disputing that city cops are as bad as the Sheriff's office. That's the reason I advocate always documenting (videos, photographs, audio) any encounters with law enforcement.

Are there good cops? Of course. Are there bad cops? Of course. Are there crooks in superior positions in every law enforcement agency? Of course.

To believe otherwise is foolish. To not protect yourself from the bad guys, whether cops, crooks, politicians, and religious fanatics, is also foolish.

May 8, 2013 at 10:55 a.m.
shen said...

I can picture it: Officer SIR! I'd like to get my camera and film you before you throw that next blow with your fist, or deliver the next kick." Yeah, right, daytonsdarwin. Not only can your advice be wrong, it can be dangerously and deadly for the individual trying to catch on camera a cop abusing a citizen. All they have to say is they thought* you were reaching for a weapon to be cleared of any wrongdoing.

May 8, 2013 at 6:26 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

Shen, you're living in fear. Afraid of cops so you run rather than record police abuse.

This is 2013 not 1913. Cell phones don't need film but can capture video, stills, and audio. Most digital cameras do that as well. In Russia, police corruption and fraud is so bad many Russians have their own dash cameras.

Police abuse is real, not imaginary. Do all cops abuse suspects? No, but enough do to warrant action and video is a good way to document it.

Go run for cover Shen, hide from the police. Be scared of them. Crawl away on all fours before you see something! Don't tell! Cower in the darkest corner of your basement. Police bullies count on weaklings like you. Reminds me of those living next to concentration camps who later claimed to know nothing about what went on inside as the smell of burnt flesh and the ashes fell on their know-nothing heads.

Thankfully, others will stand on their own two feet (they have a backbone, Shen) and aren't afraid.

Eat some Wheaties Shen, and grow a pair.

May 8, 2013 at 8:01 p.m.
shen said...

Fear has nothing to do with it, ddarwin. Common sense has everything to do with it. You're problem is you're very naive. For those of us who live in the real world, we know the difference between bravery and stupidity. I never said I would not record an incident of police brutality against myself or another. Only that your advice is not always a rational choice. For those of us who've walked the walk and lived for another day, we know how to weigh the difference and use precaution. And we certainly don't go running like a loose cannon giving ill advice to others that could cost them a serious beatdown or even their life. A trip to jail is minor in comparison. You forget there's been a few incidents locally, one at the Bessie Smith Strut a couple+ years back, where a camerman was assaulted while filming a cop harassing partygoers at the strut. And the camerman had a tag showing he was with a news agency.

May 9, 2013 at 3:39 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

It wasn't rational to oppose the Nazis, slavery, religious bigotry, Great Britain in 1775, the killing of Kitty Genovese, the internment of Japanese-US citizens, the Klu Kluxers, and the Tennessee law against the teaching of evolution either according to your reasoning.

I'm sure you quickly walked the walk; rather, ran the other way many times, Shen. And will continue to do so. That's what tyrants and bullies depend on, your common sense.

May 9, 2013 at 7:09 a.m.
shen said...

daytonsdarwin said... It wasn't rational to oppose the Nazis, slavery, religious bigotry, Great Britain in 1775, the killing of Kitty Genovese, the internment of Japanese-US citizens, the Klu Kluxers, and the Tennessee law against the teaching of evolution either according to your reasoning.

And dooo tell, ddar. How many of those events did you partake? It's easy to talk about what YOU would do under certain circumstances. It's a totally different story when you're in the mist of it taking place. Looking back, everyone claims they'd be the hero. Having been a part of the civil rights movement, I think I have first hand knowledge and experience.

You are critically naive, sir.

May 9, 2013 at 11 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

Shen, walking in the Bessie Smith Strut is not being a part of the civil rights movement. You're a moral coward, and I'll take guts and naiveté over complacency and fear anytime.

May 9, 2013 at 12:52 p.m.
Leaf said...

Turn in your man card, Shen.

May 9, 2013 at 1:41 p.m.
shen said...

ddarwin, your ignorance is showing. There was NO Bessie Smith strut during the civil rights movement. However, there were water hoses and beatings in Selma, Ala. Killings all across the nation, even Chattanooga. Things didn't bypass Chattanooga, much of it was covered up, with help of course. Apparently, you weren't even an egg then. Otherwise, you'd know better than to speak with such disrespect with someone who lived it.

Now, you might get away with pulling out a camera in your neck of the woods, and especially if you're white. But giving that advice to some young black kid from some poor community can lead to a serious beat down at the hands of cops or worst.

Leaf, are you ddarwin's parrot or something?

May 9, 2013 at 5:34 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

Shen, apparently your lack of moral courage is only surpassed by your inability to recognize sarcasm.

It was only after the nation SAW the brutal scenes in Selma and elsewhere that black civil rights became an issue to others and the world. Seeing is much different than just hearing.

According to your moral courage those newscrews should have stayed away before they got abused by white cops. It took courage to be in the vanguard of protest and courage to film it.

Your position bring disrespect, Shen. I trust you always wear your running shoes in case you're confronted by danger.

May 10, 2013 at 7:27 a.m.
shen said...

Seeing is much different than just hearing

Actually, ddarwin, experiencing it all and having personal accounts of what was taking place are far more different than anything you might read in a HIS-story book. It wasn't at all that cut and dry, darling.

When it came to southern news especially, ddarwin, they were often either complicit or directly involved in covering up, going along with and taking part in many of the brutal injustices that took place during that period. It wasn't unusual for them to help set up a prominent supporter of CR movement, white/black, right at that critical moment and catch them on camera with some strange woman jumping into their arms pretending to be their mistress and broadcasting it all over the media. Assisting in destroying families, careers, livelihoods. Or help spread rumors as in the case women like Rosa Parks, accusing them of being a wh/re and sl/ut (their words) "who'd slept around with male members of NAACP."*

I said nothing about news crews staying away, ddarwin. I was speaking of the dangers for some young black youth from a poor community taking your advice and attempting to whip out a camera at some critical moment to record a cop either antagonizing or brutally beating someone else or about to beat them. Don't twist my words. You have no idea.

After all, NY have been known to shoot and kill because the NYPD claims to have mistaken a youths 3 musketeer candy bar in a silver wrapper for a gun. Or the SRO in a GA school recently who slammed a young diabetic girls head so severely into a desk (causing her to vomit in the back of his patrol car), arresing her and hauling her off to jail because she fell asleep in school detention. Those type events you'll never likely exeprience or be personally affected by in your world.

You forget, those situations during the civil rights movement that were caught on camera, were carried out in groups, because even they knew the dangers of 1 person alone. There were many others injustices, many locally, left out of the history books that happened to individuals.

May 10, 2013 at 9:54 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

Shen, it is individuals that make a difference. You talk out of both sides of your mouth. Reminds me of the Parisian collaborators who kept a swastika on display when the Nazis were occupying Paris and immediately flew the French Free flag when the Allies were approaching the city.

Your moral relativism is duly noted.

May 10, 2013 at 10:24 a.m.
Leaf said...

One of the checks and balances that makes our society work is that the citizenry polices those in power. It USED to be that we were helped by the so-called Fourth Estate (news organizations) but most of them have been coopted by Murdoch. And those that haven't have had to lay off a lot of investigative journalists due to their tightening margins.

In the early days of video cameras the cops would often get out of control when they were filmed, but I think most of them have had to accept it now. With devices being so ubiquitous and able to stream directly to the cloud, they should realize that there is always a chance that they are being filmed and they should conduct themselves as though they were.

May 10, 2013 at 11:31 a.m.
shen said...

ddarwin, you have no clue. You speak from an ideal and polly anna mindset. Neither of which exist.

You've really gone deep and off the edge, dd, talking about swastikas and nazis occupation. None of which is necessary or relevant to the discussion. sad actually.

And we'll just leave it at that, without going into gory detail.

May 10, 2013 at 4:11 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

It's sad Shen, that you lack a backbone to fight police abuse, to encourage others to do so, and have little reading comprehension for an analogy comparing cowardly French collaborators to cowardly self-proclaimed civil-rights marchers.

May 10, 2013 at 5:32 p.m.
shen said...

OH, that's where you're soo wrong, ddarwin. I have the backbone alright. But I also know how to choose my battles wisely, and in a way where an entire innocent group or community won't pay the price. I know how individuals who call others cowards won't even show up and leave the real backbones stranded and standing alone. Now, go stand beside the woman in the below article and offer up your support to her. Offer to take the beating in her place next time. Go offer spiritual, physical and financial support to the family of the New Orleans woman who was murdered years ago when she filed a complaint against a NOLA cop after witnessing him beating an innocent man in the street for no reason. The cop got a drug dealer friend/associate to carry out a hit on her. Which the drug dealer followed through. Woman gunned down in a driveby.

excerpt: "BALTIMORE (CN) - Baltimore police beat up a woman and smashed her camera for filming them beating up a man, telling her: "You want to film something bi/tch? Film this!" the woman claims in court."

May 10, 2013 at 9:32 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

More excuses Shen,as you've already said you'd run from taking actions against police abuse and encourage others to do the same.

Bravely in front of the crowd until the threat of action rears its menacing head and your jelly-filled doughnut backbone quickly slithers out of sight.

Your kind are easy to spot after an encounter. Any wounds will be to your back and buttocks incurred in a fast-moving rear guard retreat.

May 10, 2013 at 10:16 p.m.
shen said...

until the threat of action rears its menacing head and your jelly-filled doughnut backbone quickly slithers out of sight.

At least we show up. Your type talk your sh!t, but rarely to never show up for the actual protest. Leaving the true brave standing alone and without any support whatsoevah! LOL 'nuf said. ;)

May 11, 2013 at 9:55 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

Shen, I'm sure you keep a white handkerchief ready to wave at a moment's notice. The only thing that keeps you standing is being supported by others. Once the crowd leaves you bravely duck and cower.

May 11, 2013 at 10:47 a.m.
please login to post a comment

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »


Find a Business

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.