New commander promoted to head of Tennessee Highway Patrol

| 3/3/2006

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.”