The Command Staff is comprised of 7 people that work closely with the Sheriff to administer the numerous divisions and personnel. These individuals are comprised of various Division leaders, IT staff, and other support personnel. The Command Staff meets each week to discuss ongoing departmental concerns, finance-oriented issues, technology directives, correctional administration, human resource initiatives, state as well as local compliance, and public relations with press and media outlets.
Sheriff Jim Hammond is the current Sheriff of Hamilton County and has been since August of 2008. His Sheriff’s Office personnel consist of three hundred and eighty-six full-time and thirty-three part-time employees. His area of coverage is Hamilton County, which is the fourth largest county in the state of Tennessee. As a Constitutional Elected Official of the State of Tennessee, Sheriff Hammond brings over 54 years of law enforcement experience to his credit, including 15 Years as Chief Deputy. He is also a veteran of the US Navy, an international police instructor, and former adjunct instructor for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is married to his wife of 40 years, Jeannie and they have three children and 8 Grandchildren. Sheriff Hammond has a B.A. degree in psychology from Tennessee Temple University, as well as a B.S. and Masters Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Chief Deputy Austin Garrett was appointed to serve by Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond in February 2019, and as such is directly responsible for the administration of all Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office operations.
Prior to his current leadership appointment, Chief Garrett served 25 years with the Chattanooga Police Department, retiring as a lieutenant, where he was responsible for command of the Tactical and Traffic Operations Division encompassing 13 specialized units. In the course of his career, he also served as a patrol officer, auto theft investigator, FBI Task Force Investigator, motor officer, and special events supervisor. He has extensive experience in public safety partnerships and large-scale event planning and management. During his last nine years with the Chattanooga Police Department he was directly responsible for crisis management, security, and safety at all major events held in the city of Chattanooga, including the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, multiple annual Ironman races, the U.S.A. Pro-Cycling Championships, and the annual Riverbend Music Festival. He has also participated in the multi-agency planning and management of presidential, vice-presidential, and dignitary visits to the city.
Chief Garrett holds a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Bethel University, is a graduate of the FBI National Academy Session 273, and graduated from the Southeastern Command and Leadership Academy Session 11. He has served as an advisory committee member with the University of Southern Mississippi’s National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4). Chief Garrett also serves as a board member for the Forgotten Child Fund that annually provides Christmas gifts to over 10,000 local children. Chief Garrett was born and raised in Bryant, Alabama, and moved to Hamilton County in 1993. He has been married to Pam McAllister-Garrett since May 2012, and they have two children, Allison Haley Garrett and Ashli Madalyn Garrett.
Chief of Staff G.A. “Gino” Bennett is the chief of staff for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office with 24 years of service in 2019. He started with the agency in 1981 and retired after 14 years. He returned in 2008 with Sheriff Hammond and served as the Director of Support Services for ten years. In August 2018, he was appointed the agency’s chief of staff.
Before moving to Chattanooga from Ohio in 1975, Chief Bennett spent ten years with the Ashland Oil Refinery pursuing a career in chemical engineering, studying chemistry at Akron University. After moving to Chattanooga, he became an Alpha Epsilon Theta honor graduate of Tennessee Temple University and holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a Double Major in English and Bible, a Minor in Psychology, and has completed some graduate work in Criminal Justice at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Besides supervising several divisions during his tenure at the sheriff’s office, Chief Bennett was instrumental in creating several HCSO projects. These include the chaplaincy programs for the jail and law enforcement, the Mounted Horse Patrol, the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), the Public Information Office, the Law Enforcement Memorial, the College Interrnship Program, the Justice and Mental Health Initiative, and the Integrity Training Program for the Cuernavaca, Mexico LE Academy. He has also been effective in securing millions of dollars of federal, state, and local grants for the agency.
As chief of staff, Chief Bennett oversees, coordinates and supports the general operation of the sheriff’s office and is dedicated to building a loyal team of employees committed to meeting the sheriff’s goals and objectives. He serves as an executive administrator, strategist, financial, policy and political advisor, and personal confidant to the sheriff. Throughout his career with the sheriff’s office, Chief Bennett has been very active in various professional, non-profit, and civic organizations and has served on the boards of several agencies in the Hamilton County community. Some of these include The Dismas House, The Fellowship of Christain Peace Officers (FCPO), Crime Stoppers, The Aegis Law Enforcement Foundation, and the Mocassin Bend Mental Health Institute Board of Trustees.
Chief Bennett and his wife, Jeannie, just celebrated 53 years of marriage and are active members of St. Stephens Catholic Church. They have two children and one grandchild.
Kacey Picou is the Executive Administrative Assistant to both the Sheriff and Chief Deputy. She provides administrative support; scheduling and clerical help to the Sheriff and Chief, as well as the rest of the Command Staff. She also assists in a variety of functions including taking minutes for the Command Staff Meetings and numerous “special duties” as required. Kacey has been with the HCSO since 2012 and has worked in a variety of capacities, including Information Systems and Criminal Records. Kacey is originally from Louisiana but loves living in the Scenic City since 2000.
Ron Bernard is the Director of Technology and Finance which includes leadership of the Information Technology (IT), Finance and the Human Resource (HR) Divisions. He is responsible for maintaining and improving upon software and hardware systems used throughout the HCSO. Although Ron has been with the HCSO fourteen years, he has a total of 30 years of professional experience, including twenty of those years leading high performing technology teams. In the fourteen years Ron has been with the HCSO, he has witnessed the growth of technology use, personnel growth of the agency and works hard implementing the strategic transitional role that Finance, IT and HR play for the agency. He recently successfully led a project to transition the downtown jail to consolidate to the Silverdale Detention Center with a private vendor exiting operations of the facility. Ron holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Bryan College and an Associate of Computer Science degree from Lakeland Community College. Ron and his wife Belinda have four children, daughters Megan and Sara and sons Sam and Scotty. Ron and Belinda have made Chattanooga home since 2002, are active members of The Crossing Church, and are adoptive parents.