Despite new boss, corruption still reigns within THP's ranks

| 3/6/2006

While there may be a new “sheriff” in town, it’s his “deputies” that have some worried about the future integrity of the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

On Wednesday, March 1, Col. Mike Walker – a 29-year-veteran of the patrol – replaced Col. Lynn Pitts, as commander, the highest uniformed position within the patrol. Pitts resigned in December 2005 after accusations of bribery, cronyism and corruption surfaced within the patrol’s ranks.

However, a new investigation by the Nashville newspaper The Tennessean has revealed brand-new allegations against 17 high-ranking captains – all of whom serve as leaders for the patrol’s 900-plus troopers and are positioned directly below Walker in the organization’s hierarchy.

According to The Tennessean, 13 of the 17 captains donated money to Gov. Phil Bredesen’s election campaign, four of whom skipped the rank of lieutenant and were promoted directly to captain.

Other allegations against the 17 men include complaints of favoritism, a forged signature, abuse of power, cover-ups on accident reports and tickets, failure of patrol-required physicals, domestic violence, and fixed tickets. None of the captains, however, were among the 48 officers found by The Tennessean a few months ago to have criminal charges on their records.

Walker was promoted to his new position in hopes of cleaning up the patrol’s ranks, after dozens of incidents began to emerge from Tennessee’s state and local police forces, most of which stem from an ongoing investigation by 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.