Tennessee Highway Patrol DUI quota system
I recently ran across a noteworthy news item written by Becky Campbell of the Johnson City Press. This article was written on March 8, 2015 and it addressed a DUI quota system employed by the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP). In particular, the focus on the story was on THP’s Fall Branch district.
Johnson City, TN attorney Don Spurrell made allegations that THP created a DUI arrest quota system. He filed motions with the court and asked for an evidentiary hearing in a pending DUI case. He alleged that THP has a quota system and this system could lead to bad arrests by troopers trying to reach these goals. The motion included an email from Lt. Traci Barrett. The email addresses “enforcement goals” for each officer and urged troopers to help their colleagues who fall behind. THP Colonial Tracy Trott denied these allegations, clearly stated that the department does not have a quota system, and is simply focused on saving as many lives as possible. These sentiments were also echoed by THP Captain Steve Street.
Becky Campbell wrote that several state troopers have taken issue with the above policy statements. She quotes an anonymous THP supervisor who said that “morale in the department is low because of constant pressure and demand for DUI arrests and seat belt violations.” Former trooper Mike Holt, who retired after 28 years from the THP, said “when I was working, if you didn’t have a certain number of DUI arrests, you were punished.” The punishment was doled out accordingly. Many troopers were forced to work night shifts, lose overtime opportunities, transferred to another district, or being reassigned to ride along with supervisors. Holt said that he had to work evening shifts for four months after failing to make enough DUI arrests.
Campbell further quotes another anonymous trooper stating that “the officers were told they must have double digit DUI arrests” in the calendar year. The trooper was told to have at least 5 arrests by June and conduct 3 seat belt violations each week. Yet, another source states that “there is a quota…there sure is.” These quotas are often called goals and percentages are used to enforce these goals.
The troopers expressed concerns over the unofficial quota system because these arrests often ruin a person’s career or family. One anonymous trooper stated that “when you arrest somebody for DUI, you cost them over $10,000.00…and I’m not arresting and ruining them for a number.”
I applaud attorney Don Spurrell, Becky Campbell and these anonymous THP troopers for coming out and exposing the truth. It took great courage.
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