Four more Tennessee Highway Patrolmen have came forward to anonymously corroborate allegations made by two other troopers about a quota system existing in the department surrounding DUI arrests.
Other troopers are afraid to speak up, they say, for fear of retaliation by state administrators who have publicly denied the claims.
Allegations of a DUI arrest quota emerged last month 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 referencing “enforcement goals” for each officer and the district and encouraged troopers to help their colleagues who fall behind.
Since the publication of that information, several state troopers have commented on the issue.
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. “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.”
The retired officer says punishment was doled out in different ways. For example, being forced to work night shifts, losing out on overtime opportunities, being transferred to other districts, or being reassigned within the department.
Another trooper who still works at THP told local reporters 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.”
Another current trooper said officers were told they must have double-digit DUI arrests this year, and are required to have five by June and conduct three “seatbelt blitzes” each week.
“There is a quota. There sure is. They call it goals and they use percentages and not a set number (as that goal),” the trooper said, adding that his DUI arrest rate isn’t what his supervisors want to see, but his conviction rate is above 90 percent. Other troopers with higher arrests have much lower conviction rates, something he says is evidence of wrongful arrests.
Conviction rates are not readily available from any agency, it seems. County clerk’s offices can’t provide them because their computer system does not support a search function.
The same holds true for District Attorney General offices, even those with grant-funded DUI prosecutors through the Governor’s Highway Safety Office.
The punishment for a first-time DUI conviction is an 11 month, 29 day jail sentence that is usually suspended to 48 hours and a driver’s license revocation for one year and costs between $7,722 and $10,122.
THP Col. Tracy Trott has adamantly denied the quota allegations.
THP is simply focused on “saving as many lives as possible,” Trott said recently. “We don’t have a quota on any type of arrests, DUI, speeding or otherwise. There’s no unwritten policy.”
Fall Branch district Capt. Steve Street has also publicly said there are no arrest quotas placed on troopers as well.
Arrest and ticket quotas are illegal.