More troopers say TN Highway Patrol has a DUI quota system

Four more Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers — including one recently retired and a supervisor — said the allegations of a DUI arrest quota system in the department are absolutely true and they dispute the agency administration’s denial, reports the Johnson City Press.

Other troopers are afraid to speak up, they say, for fear of retaliation by those same THP administrators. A total of six troopers from all across the state have spoken to the Press on the condition of anonymity.

Allegations of a DUI arrest quota came to light Feb. 25 when a Johnson City attorney, Don Spurrell, filed a motion asking for an evidentiary hearing in a DUI case. He wants to show the THP has a quota system that could lead to bad arrests by troopers trying to reach their requirements. The motion he filed included an email dated Dec. 17, 2014, from Lt. Traci Barrett to her troop in the Fall Branch district.

The email addresses what Barrett called “enforcement goals” for each officer and the district and encouraged troopers to help their colleagues who fall behind. THP Col. Tracy Trott adamantly denied the allegation that the department demands a quota of arrests from its troopers. (Note: Previous post HERE.)

…Since the publication of that information a week ago, several state troopers have voiced opinions differing from what the THP says about the issue.

The THP supervisor, who agreed to talk about the issue on the condition of anonymity, said morale in the department is low because of the constant pressure and demand for DUI arrests and seatbelt violation citations.

The trooper isn’t opposed to doing the job assigned but said the administration has de-emphasized many of the duties the Highway Patrol has traditionally performed. And the areas patrolled have moved to more populated areas, and inside city limits, of their districts as opposed to working Interstate highways, the trooper said.

Former trooper Mike Holt, who retired in August after 28 years with the THP, said he doesn’t fear the retribution of superiors because he no longer works for the department. He, as well as the other troopers who spoke anonymously, said he was glad someone was finally asking questions, but was not surprised THP administrators denied the allegations.

“When I was working, if you didn’t have a certain number of DUI arrests, you were punished,” Holt said. That punishment was doled out in different ways, from being forced to work night shifts until they make more arrests to losing out on overtime opportunities, being transferred to other districts, or even seasoned officers being assigned to ride along with supervisors to help them make arrests.

“I know what a DUI looks like,” said Holt, whose comments were echoed by the other troopers. “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.”

“Apparently it’s more important to sit in the city and watch for somebody not wearing a seatbelt than be on the interstate stopping somebody running 90 miles an hour,” Holt said.

Another trooper who still works at THP said he also refuses to make unwarranted arrests, something that often ruins a person’s career or family.

“When you arrest somebody for DUI, you’ve just cost them $10,000,” the trooper said. “I’m not arresting somebody and ruining them just for a number. The DAs don’t have a problem with my cases, and I’ve convicted every one of them.”