The Tennessee Highway Patrol, rocked for months by continued claims of
cronyism and corruption, has promoted a new commander to help fix the
organization’s ongoing problems.
Mike Walker, a 29-year veteran of the patrol, was promoted Wednesday,
March 1, to THP’s highest uniformed position. Walker replaces Lynn Pitts, who
resigned from the position in December 2005 amidst allegations of violating
personnel policies and allowing officers with criminal histories to infiltrate
the patrol’s ranks.
Pitts’ resignation was just one of dozens of controversial incidents in
Tennessee’s state and local police forces, most of which stem from an ongoing
investigation by Nashville newspaper The
Tennessean. The paper has uncovered allegations ranging from sexual
misconduct to high-level cronyism throughout the state’s police force and
various levels of government.
In fact, even Walker has been embroiled in controversy during his
tenure with the patrol. Walker admitted to donating $400 to the re-election
campaign of Gov. Phil Bredesen. The governor ordered a halt to campaign
donations by officers at the end of last year, and the state’s legislature has
considered passing laws to prevent the practice after The Tennessean uncovered alleged bribery
by THP officers in exchange for promotions.
However, Walker said his donation was far from anything that could be
considered a bribe.
“In 2004, I gave $400. It didn’t buy me anything,” Walker said. “If I
could buy a promotion for $400, I wouldn’t want it.”