Safety commissioner promises new THP head within three weeks

| 2/15/2006

The Tennessee Safety Commissioner has promised to find a new head for the state’s Highway Patrol within the next two to three weeks.

Interim Commissioner Gerald Nicely told lawmakers that he plans to nominate a new patrol head in the next two to three weeks, according to WBIR-TV. The position has been vacant since December of this past year, when Col. Lynn Pitts, a 31-year veteran of and head of the patrol since 2003, resigned.

Pitts’ resignation came 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. However, the state official who requested the resignation cited other issues.

“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.”

A string of scandals have emerged from Tennessee’s state and local police forces in recent months, most of which stem from an ongoing investigation 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.