Tennessee Highway Patrol officers are once
again under investigation after an area newspaper uncovered possible breaches
of conduct in the patrol’s Memphis
On Tuesday, Jan. 3, The Tennessean reported that an unnamed
patrol officer was being examined for having “inappropriate relations” with
female prison inmates who performed custodial duties in the patrol’s Memphis office, and that officers also allowed the inmates to access private
information on the patrol’s computers.
Last week, the patrol’s Internal Affairs
department interviewed patrol officers as a follow-up to an anonymous tip about
the unethical behavior, according to The
“The only specific thing (the anonymous tip)
does allege is that it is a supervisor, that there was possibly some
inappropriate activity taking place with female inmates and perhaps female
inmates had access to too much information,” Internal Affairs Capt. Dereck
Stewart told the newspaper.
The investigation is not the first to find possible
sexual wrongdoing in the patrol. On Thursday, Dec. 22, The Tennessean reported that Sgt.
Gregory R. Badacour – who in August 2004 was arrested for filming people having
sex at a local lookout point – was given a one-day suspension for his actions,
and is still working as a patrol officer at the state Capitol.
According to The Tennessean , Badacour pleaded
guilty to filming one couple and was placed on probation, but his police file
says he filmed at least nine other couples.
However, his record with THP only mentions
the one guilty plea, despite being informed by the local police of the other
incidents, The Tennessean reported.
Although Badacour does have a criminal
record, he’s certainly not the only one in THP who does.
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. The paper also found that two-thirds
of all officers in the patrol had made some sort of campaign contribution, and
about half of those were promoted over troopers with better test scores.
The investigation eventually led to the
resignation of three higher-ups in the patrol, including Lynn Pitts, former
head of the patrol, who resigned after the criminal record bombshell was
dropped by the newspaper.
After stepping down, Pitts also fingered
Deputy Gov. Dave Cooley – the second in command in the state’s government – saying he was involved in cronyism and was often consulted when it came time
for high-level promotions within THP.
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.