Tag Archives: Tennessee Highway Patrol

Tennessee Highway Patrol Under Fire After Troopers Expose Alleged DUI Quota System

A December 2014 email, uncovered by attorney Don Spurrell and exposed to the public by Johnson City Press, from Tennessee Highway Patrol Lt. Traci Barrett to her troopers, said, “If we have personnel that fall behind the district trooper average on DUI arrests, then I cannot allow us to remain on permanent shifts. As we all know, DUI arrests are extremely important, and no group of personnel should be expected to ’carry’ another group.” The email raised questions as to whether Tennessee Highway Patrol is using a proportional or percentage-based quota system to increase its Driving Under the Influence arrest statistics.

However, following these allegations, six current and former troopers with THP have come forward to Johnson City Press to blow the whistle on what they say is indeed a quota system. Though most of the whistleblowers have chosen to speak with reporter Becky Campbell under conditions of anonymity due to fears of retaliation by higher-ups at THP, retired ex-trooper Mike Holt said openly, “When I was working, if you didn’t have a certain number of DUI arrests, you were punished… I know what a DUI looks like. I was leading my troop with moving violations … it wasn’t enough. I worked straight evenings for four months because I didn’t have enough DUI arrests. I’m just not going to arrest somebody and take them to jail if they’re not drunk.” Holt also complained that THP administrators have been pushing for officers to seek revenue raising opportunities in cities rather than patrolling the state’s highways according to the THP’s traditional mandate.

“There is a quota. There sure is. They call it goals and they use percentages and not a set number [as that goal],” said an anonymous officer to Johnson City Press. That officer noted that, though he is under fire by THP for not arresting enough citizens for DUIs, his conviction rate is high. He claimed that officers who arrest fewer citizens have higher conviction rates, whereas officers who meet THP quotas have lower conviction rates, suggesting that some of the quota-motivated pickups constitute wrongful arrests. However, the claim about conviction rates could not be confirmed as the software system used by county clerk offices lacks a search function.

An anonymous trooper still employed at THP said, “When you arrest somebody for DUI, you’ve just cost them $10,000. I’m not arresting somebody and ruining them just for a number.”

THP Col. Tracy Trott denied the existence of a quota system in an interview with Johnson City Press and said, “We don’t have a quota on any type of arrests, DUI, speeding or otherwise.”



TN Cops to Draw Blood at Labor Day Weekend ‘No Refusal’ DUI Checkpoints

Tennessee has a new Labor Day tradition. According to WKRN-TV, the Tennessee Highway Patrol will continue its “no refusal” blood-extraction DUI checkpoints this Labor Day weekend, starting on midnight on August 29 and continuing until midnight on September 1. Under “no refusal” enforcement, suspected drunk drivers will be forced to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test, even if they refuse.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security issued a press release on this weekend’s crackdown, saying, “State troopers will conduct ‘No Refusal’ enforcement in the following counties: Union (Knoxville District); Hamilton and Marion (Chattanooga District); Montgomery (Nashville District); Shelby (Memphis District); Hawkins (Fall Branch District); Smith (Cookeville); Maury (Lawrenceburg); and Hardin County (Jackson District).” The press release also describes how police coverage will work over the weekend, “In addition to ‘No Refusal’ enforcement, highway patrol personnel will also conduct driver’s license, sobriety and seat belt checkpoints, as well as saturation patrols and bar and tavern checks.”

Due to the disputed constitutionality of police checkpoints, Tennessee state law requires that their locations be publicly announced in advance so that Tennesseans who don’t want to be inconvenienced can adjust their routes. The locations of this weekend’s checkpoints can be found at this link.

Civil liberties advocates often question whether police checkpoints, which force motorists to submit to a criminal investigation on the basis of their geographic location rather than probable cause, violate the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. Also, police positioned at checkpoints do not have an opportunity to see how a suspect has been driving and instead must rely on less-precise indicators like red eyes or fatigued behavior, which might also suggest that the suspect is coming home from a long work shift and not intoxicated at all. As more officers are placed at checkpoints, fewer can subsequently be assigned to patrols upon which they could watch for impaired motorists in the act of driving dangerously.

Forced blood extractions take place off-site at a police precinct, making the process time consuming for individuals who might be innocent. Additionally, for those who refuse to comply, extraction locations are equipped with tools to strap down suspects and masks to cover their faces.

Approval for involuntary blood draws is typically attained via telephone as judge magistrates will remain on standby throughout the weekend to handle officers’ requests.