Griffin PD chief responds to criticism of recruit’s “insensitive” tweet

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

A.J. Hammond, a recruit in training with the Griffin Police Department, has drawn harsh criticism following a tweet he posted during Saturday’s University of Georgia-University of Tennessee football game.
After Nick Chubb, UGA’s star running back, sustained a significant and season-ending knee injury, Hammond tweeted, “I hope that ended his career! #GoVols”
Hammond was immediately inundated with responses from people who not only took offense to the sentiment expressed in his tweet, but that his social media profile indicated his career in law enforcement.
Social media was ablaze Saturday and Sunday with people calling for his termination from the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office. However, Hammond ended his employment with that agency Sept. 25, and he is now employed by the Police Department.
GPD Chief Steve Heaton said he has received six emails regarding Hammond’s tweet, and he is aware of the demands for his termination.
Despite the negative outcry, Heaton has confirmed Hammond will not lose his job as a result of Saturday’s tweet.
“I think that he’s a young guy who got into the middle of a discussion with a Georgia fan on a Twitter account and said some things that were insensitive and I don’t think he anticipated it getting as much attention as it did,” he said. “As soon as I was contacted (Saturday), the lieutenant told me he’d already spoken to him and asked him to take it down, which he did, and the recruit, Hammond, apologized and apologized to us for creating a problem that involved the PD.”
The Chief said one important factor is Hammond did not make the comment in any law enforcement capacity.
“The fact that somebody found out that he’s a police officer, it wasn’t something he put out there on any social media, so nothing he did was in reference to or associated with the Griffin Police Department. His personal views are not the same views as the Griffin Police Department, so they’re not representative of us,” Heaton said. “When you look at the comments, the comments are not profane. I think they’re simply insensitive.”
He also responded to those who have stated Hammond’s tweet indicates he is unfit to serve as a law enforcement officer.
“I disagree with that. It’s an opinion that he had where he thought that he was having a conversation with somebody who’s a Georgia fan and they were bantering back and forth like folks do on social media about their opinions of different teams. He made a comment that he wishes he hadn’t made now, but nonetheless, it was insensitive,” he said. “That does not, in my opinion, what he said does not reflect his ability to be a police officer.”
Heaton also responded to criticism Hammond has faced based on the belief officers should be held to a higher standard. While he does agree with officers being held to a higher standard, he said that does not negate their individual rights.
“Well, the standard applies because they shouldn’t do anything that brings discredit to our police department and in this case, nobody knew because he never represented he represented us, he never indicated he is associated with us and he is entitled to his opinion. And he stated his opinion, nobody else’s. Officers have rights like everybody else. They have the right to exercise their free speech and he certainly dd that,” he said. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – was it insensitive? Yes, it was insensitive, but that does not mean he did anything that would be in violation of our policy or what we think would be acceptable. I mean, do I like it? No, but our folks have a tendency sometimes, like everyone else, to say something someone may not like and that’s what happened in this case. He was asked to take it down and he was counseled, so there is a higher standard and we held it.”
With regard to the sentiment that Hammond should be terminated based on an insensitive statement alone, Heaton said, “So, because you don’t like what I say, that you can have me fired. That’s slaps in the face of free speech, does it not? You’re trying to stop me from having the ability to say what I think because it doesn’t square with what you think. I think the long story short with Austin Hammond is that he made a statement he now knows he shouldn’t have made and he knows that, he immediately took it down and was counseled by no less than two supervisors. He apologized and said he didn’t mean for it to get out of hand. That’s it.”

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Comments

  1. This Hammond person is foul from the inside out. It’s a very sad day in Mudville, indeed, when someone USES **ANY LE BACKGROUND AND SHIELD** AND STATES ON THEIR “MEDIA” that they’re a deputy… WHICH HE DID… Spalding County Sheriff’s Office is who responded to soooooo much flack because of THAT negative light thrown their direction BY HAMMOND’s actions. If he’s in mandate, he’s a p poor candidate, that’s for sure.

    NO FIRST RESPONDER should EVER have THAT attitude.

    And, the sad sack story that he did not understand that so many people would see it… Please, this is 2015! If he’s that much an idiot, he needs his internet restricted.

    IF he is going to be POST certified and carry a weapon certainly he knows that that would have been seen because it was ON “social media”. If he thinks THAT slowly, he DOESN’T belong ANYWHERE with a weapon, much less at taxpayer’s expense.

    That chief is leaving, obviously he could care less the reflection it makes for the city of Griffin Police Department and it is NOT a very nice one, either.

    And, no, I’m not a DAWG or a VOLS fan, BUT this fellow IS a loose cannon with a slick tongue. “Oh, I didn’t know, Lt.” PLEASE, he’s not in third grade.

    He IS what fuels distaste for the good and decent and integrity driven LEO everywhere. Shameful is what he is…

    And, I don’t care WHERE his daddy works, if my son made a comment like that about another human being there WOULD BE consequences to pay.

    If he was not in law enforcement, as someone in this comment thread kept repeating that he did not work for the Griffin Police Department until a certain date, then why did he not CHANGE his social media to reflect that he did NOT work for the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office and remove what said that he was a deputy sheriff? Sounds like a Napoleon “small man” complex to me.

    There’s NO PLACE in law enforcement for Barney Fife these days… And to think that the taxpayers will suffer the consequences of his poor judgement is ABSOLUTELY disgraceful.

    Bad, bad press, Griffin Police Department.

  2. Good luck to the Chief – if he’s foolish enough to not see the writing on the wall with Hammond, he will be standing in front of microphones in the not too distant future answering questions and again trying to defend Hammond.

  3. A public apology would be a good way to start. This would show some contrition and it might make him a little less arrogant.

  4. So, let me get this straight. I can say whatever I want, even to law enforcement, because of “free speech” without consequences? Sadly, the local police chief does not understand how “free speech” works. I guess Mr. Hammond can say whatever he wants to his boss…you know, free speech and all.

  5. I agree that no one should lose their job for expressing an opinion. If that starts to happen, our country it would be in a bigger mess. However the Comments that he made, go straight to the fabric of his character. I cannot believe that this comment would be isolated in regards to this young man. That comment alone indicates deeper issues. In an effort to employ people with integrity and character, this department has missed it’s mark. I cannot help but to think that there will be another incident with the young man in the future. I think they should make a public apology.

    • If he works for UPS or the post office or McDonald’s or Kroger or AT&T or Home Depot or any other place then yes he shouldn’t lose his job!
      This young man has a badge and power and you carry that with honor how honorable is someone who has a character in question of this.
      I’m probably talking to his mother right now so… If his daddy wasnt the district attorney or whoever is daddy is he would’ve lost his job and you can bet that. Police are 95% great people and there’s 5% of the bad seeds why are we taking a chance on a potential bad seed especially with what is going on in America today… Save my job daddy

  6. UGA plays the Vols next October , avoid Spaulding county on that day , and for the next 365 if UGA wins

  7. Austin is only sorry that this cost him so much grief.
    Next year if the Bulldogs beat the volunteers and I drive by him with my flags on my window I wonder if I am at great risk getting a ticket under false merit by this officer who has shown poor lack of judgment.
    Please officers are here to protect and serve the citizens not celebrate and cheer bodily harm.
    If I drive by this officer with my Georgia flags and I get into a car crash and my car is about to explode I wonder if this officer is going to run to save my life.
    I wonder if this officer has issue tickets in the past because someone had a University of Georgia license plate
    This deputy has kept his job probably only because his daddy got him the job, I hear his dad works for the DA office.
    This guy should be working at the most the jail, where in Carson aided subjects have lost their rights
    At least there he wouldn’t be subject to casting his own judgment on the citizens of Georgia
    This officer should not be allowed to protect and serve the citizens of Georgia

    • Today was his 12th day in mandate, so he’s never issued any citations.

      • What about in the future? This officer shows he has a flawed mentality. A person’s mentality determines a person’s behavior.
        I believe 95% of all police officers are excellent human beings and are out there looking out for the best interest of the people. The other 5% or bad seeds we should be doing everything to make sure the bad seed stay out of law-enforcement and we do not give them a badge. A badge represents honor. There is nothing honorable about this young man

      • I was simply responding to your comment regarding his past actions as a law enforcement officer. However, I must say it’s astonishing to me that you feel capable of judging the ENTIRE content of a man’s character based on one sentence.

      • Well, Sheila, WHAT DID he do in the Sheriff’s department?? He doesn’t warrant ANY DAYS in mandate. He’s a loose cannon… with a daddy who’s an investigator and “trainer” for the DA’s office I suppose that proves that nepotism is alive and well in Griffin, Georgia. He’s a STAIN ON THE BADGE OF INTEGRITY…

    • That is absurd.

      • What’s absurd Jessica?

        Sheila why is it so astonishing that I feel that a police officer who wishes and enjoyed seeing someone get hurt especially a 18 or 19-year-old… how is that astonishing that I don’t think you should be protecting people and serving people in the state of Georgia where it’s overrun by Georgia fans I guarantee you he has a deep issues and hatred in his heart and he needs therapy

    • Sheila Campbell says:

      I think what the Police ChiefChief said is right. No one should lose their job over a comment made on Twitter. I’ve made comments before that I regretted but losing you job is way over the line. I think people need to move on and stop being so quick to judge and hand out punishment

      • Are you a police officer who is employed to protect and serve the citizens of Georgia and was your comment I’m glad a 18 year old is hurt I hope he never plays again?
        If you work for AT&T I’m not calling for his head. I don’t want this guy coming to my rescue if I’m ever in need.

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