Tennessee 's top cop resigns following newspaper investigation

| 12/8/2005

The highest-ranking uniformed officer in the Tennessee Highway Patrol has resigned at the request of his boss after an ongoing series of investigative articles by a newspaper.

Col. Lynn Pitts, a 31-year veteran of the force and head of the patrol since 2003, resigned from his position Tuesday, Dec. 6, after a story in The Tennessean found that 48 of the state’s more than 800 troopers had some type of charges on their criminal record, including felony charges and suspended driver’s licenses

“As a result of recent events in the Tennessee Department of Safety, I have requested and received the resignation of Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Lynn Pitts,” Fred Phillips, safety commissioner for the state, said in a press release. “This action comes as a result of Col. Pitt’s’ attempt to purchase a boat through the surplus division of the Department of General Services, which is in violation of TCA 12-2-208.”

Additionally, The Tennessean also uncovered the story of Jerry Dean Watson – a former “trooper of the year” – who’d been convicted of a felony and resigned from the Highway Patrol in November 2001, only to be hired back in January 2003.

His crime?Forging a judge’s signature to get out of a speeding ticket.

The Tennessean’s probe of the patrol has been an ongoing topic of interest for the newspaper. Less than six months ago, an investigative series uncovered corruption in THP’s “honorary captain” program, which eventually led to its government-ordered shutdown.

State officials have not taken The Tennessean’s investigations lightly. After Watson’s rehiring was uncovered earlier this week, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen ordered background checks on all 800-plus Highway Patrol officers.