Promotions resume in scandal-ridden Tennessee Highway Patrol

| 1/31/2006

Officers in the scandal-ridden Tennessee Highway Patrol are once again receiving promotions – about five months after the state’s governor put a halt on all such actions.

According to area newspaper The Tennessean, THP Internal Affairs Sgt. Reaker Bass, has been promoted to lieutenant. Ironically, the promotion could be due to the fact that his department has seen a lot of extra work lately, processing more than two dozen cases of corruption within the patrol.

On Aug. 23, 2005, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen ordered all officers who were up for or had recently received promotions to be re-interviewed and retested before receiving their new ranks.

The move came after the promotions of two sergeants – Sgt. Tansil Phillips and Sgt. Timothy Holloway – were put on hold, after The Tennessean discoveredthe two men’s testimony was key in the dismissal of a DUI case against an “honorary captain.” The sergeants’ promotions were scheduled to happen three days after the governor ordered the end of the honorary program.

On Aug. 8, 2005, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen told the patrol to stop issuing “honorary captain’s” badges and photo ID cards to supporters. That order came after The Tennessean discovered that the official-looking honorary badges – part of a program some believe was a secretive way for high-profile citizens to stay out of trouble with the law – had been given to politicians, campaign donors and celebrities for more than 30 years.

The Tennessean originally reported that 360 people had received the badges since 2002, 19 of whom are current or past staffers for the governor. Two badge holders in the program – which had no eligibility criteria, application process or background checks – were found to have criminal records.

The honorary badge scandal was one of the first in a string of scandals in Tennessee’s state and local police forces, which have been repeatedly reported by The Tennessean.

The newspaper has uncovered more than a dozen incidents, with allegations ranging from sexual misconduct to high-level cronyism throughout the state’s police force and various levels of government.