Excerpts from a Dyersburg State-Gazette report on Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott’s meeting last week with officials, including state Rep. Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton, who were concerned about patrol policy of focusing enforcement in more urban areas:
The road to Thursday’s meeting began with a letter sent by (Dyersburg Alderman Bob) Kirk… to Commissioner Bill Gibbons of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security. In his letter to Gibbons, Kirk was concerned about the amount of coverage being provided by the THP in the city compared to the county. “The city has adequate resources to provide coverage for law enforcement within the corporate limits,” Kirk wrote.
…”Stopping DUI’s is our No.1 priority because innocent people get killed by drunk drivers. In the years I’ve been the colonel, we’ve increased our DUI enforcement by 140 percent and we’ve lowered our fatality rate in Tennessee from 28 percent down to 18 percent,” added Trott… (U)nder his leadership, the DUI arrests have increased from 3,300 a year before he took over, to more than 8,000 a year today.
…The THP went from an agency that wrote 30,000 seatbelt tickets a year, to one writing over 100,000 citations in 2014, a 225 percent increase. The emphasis on ensuring drivers were wearing seat belts had an immediate impact according to Trott.
…”Traditionally, throughout my 37-year career, we’ve stayed out in the rural areas. The problem with that is if you station a trooper on Hwy.51, he might see 25 to 50 cars an hour. If I bring him in here close to the populated areas, he might see 600 cars an hour and be able to alter the behavior of those people more effectively than he can seeing 50 cars an hour, especially when it comes to impaired driving and not wearing their seat belts.”
…”Most towns and cities I’ve been privileged to communicate with have welcomed us with open arms. I know the chief and the sheriff well, and they don’t have any problem with us working in the populated areas.
“Every time we do a special operation, we talk to the chief or the sheriff. We’re not asking for permission, because we don’t need it, frankly. But, as a professional courtesy, we want them to know that we are coming into their jurisdiction… We want to work with local law enforcement to help them with their traffic problems.”
… “I’m going to be very frank and honest with you on this. You are the first people to complain about what we are doing, and I really don’t understand it because we are trying to help save people’s lives that live here… I’ve looked at the activity level here and.. the activity level is not that extreme. We ended up writing 268 tickets, 134 of those were seatbelt tickets at $10 fines… I have some operations that write over 1,000 tickets a day. If you’re complaining about this level of enforcement then you really haven’t seen anything as far as we’re concerned.”
Kirk explained that he has received several phones call from citizens wondering why there appeared to be such an increase in drivers being pulled over throughout the city… “When you come into a heavily populated, heavy traffic area, and start writing a lot of tickets but you don’t see any troopers out on the roads then it raises the concern of what is going on,” said Kirk.
Trott told Kirk he understood his concerns, but that the strategy of the THP had changed…. “We don’t have any plans to change our strategy at all. As long as it works, then we’re going to continue doing what we are doing. Our bottom line is to save lives, and if someone can show me a better way, then we’ll use it.”