published Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Former Chattanooga police Chief Bobby Dodd takes aim at running for sheriff

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    Former Chattanooga police Chief Bobby Dodd picked up qualifying papers Thursday to run for Hamilton County sheriff. If he runs it will be in the Republican primary, he said.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
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Former Chattanooga police Chief Bobby Dodd picked up qualifying papers Thursday for a potential run for Hamilton County sheriff, just two days after his retirement from the police department.

Dodd, who was police chief for three years, has until Feb. 20 to turn in the qualifying papers with 25 signatures to the Hamilton County Election Commission.

Dodd said if he decides to run, he will run as a Republican in the May 6 primary.

"I think with my management skills and leadership abilities, I can make a difference," Dodd said outside the Election Commission office Thursday afternoon shortly after picking up the paperwork.

Dodd recently accepted a position as director of security for Emerson Russell Security. In the past, Emerson Russell has contributed funds to Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond's campaign and was issued a posse card by the sheriff. Russell also served on the board for the Sheriff's Law Enforcement Foundation.

Dodd and Hammond have clashed over the foundation because it means accepting money from individuals.

As police chief, Dodd made donors get City Council approval before he accepted donations to the department. If he accepted donations without a public vote from the council, he believed donors would expect preferential treatment from his officers in return.

For that reason, Dodd declined last year to attend the sheriff's foundation banquet. In a letter to Hammond, he wrote, "I feel to remain an effective and credible leader, I must stay out of the political realm, as well as avoid any perception of preferential treatment created through monetary donations."

Hammond responded in a previous interview, "I think part of what we do is political -- whether we like it or not -- whether we're a police chief or a sheriff."

Dodd said he considers himself a cop, not a politician, but if he decides to run, he has to raise money.

"[Hammond] wanted me to do that as a police chief. That's not in my job description. That's not allowed. As a sheriff, or any political candidate, I would have to raise money," Dodd said. "My role in there would be as a professional law enforcement manager. Not as a politician. That's the difference between me and Jim. He's never been a police officer."

Hammond was appointed sheriff in 2008 after former Sheriff Billy Long pleaded guilty to extortion, money laundering and gun and drug charges. Hammond was elected in August 2008 and re-elected in 2010 by an overwhelming margin.

Hammond had served as chief deputy for many years under previous sheriff office administrations. Hammond, who is also a Republican, is seeking re-election.

"Well, there will be a lot of people picking up papers with a lot of races. There's 30-something races. [Dodd is] entitled to pick up papers and run if that's what he feels like he wants to do," Hammond said Thursday.

Hamilton County Sheriff Sgt. Chris Harvey, who investigates cases in internal affairs, also has picked up qualifying papers and began to place campaign signs around the county.

"So many are ready for a new sheriff. Bobby and I had a good conversation. I have the utmost respect for him," Harvey said.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

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