Recent allegations of police brutality in Hamilton County, Tennessee have prompted the county’s District Attorney’s Office to set up a hotline for residents to make reports.
The DA’s office said they’ve received a number of videos that have prompted them to investigate. One of these videos includes dashcam footage of two white Hamilton County officers punching and kicking a Black man, James Mitchell, on the side of the road. They then remove his pants and perform a body cavity search on him there.
The NAACP and other activists rallied around Mitchell after the footage came out, saying the strip search amounted to rape. The Hamilton County DA’s Office filed an order to dismiss the charges against Mitchell, who, according to the arrest report, had 1.16 grams of crack cocaine in his underwear.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond told a local news station he did not believe the video depicted a body cavity search, but rather an “inspection.” He said penetrating Hammond would be against policy, but that he does not believe that happened.
The officers involved in the incident are on paid administrative leave, and others are calling for Hammond to step down.
Another video shows a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper dragging a passenger out of the seat of a car he pulled over for speeding. The trooper has been assigned to desk duty as the investigation gets underway.
“As the investigations of those incidents proceed, I believe we need to find out if these are isolated incidents or if there is a systemic problem,” District Attorney Neal Pinkston said in a news release. “It is our responsibility to not only prosecute the guilty but to protect the innocent. If an officer has abused his or her authority in this county, we want to know about it.”
Pinkston said he will personally review every complaint, along with an assistant DA and an investigator.
Elenora Woods, president of Chattanooga’s NAACP chapter told a local station she believes the move is a step in the right direction.
“A lot of this brutality that is going on doesn’t even get reported,” she said. “I think this is an excellent way to track what’s happening on the police force and in the sheriff’s department.”
Hamilton County citizens with complaints are invited to call the hotline at 423-209-7480 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.