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.”