Report on Tennessee Highway Patrol cites cronyism

| Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The governor-ordered report on the inner workings of the Tennessee Highway Patrol has finally been made public. And, like the scathing articles published in Nashville newspaper The Tennessean during the past few months, it paints a not-so-pretty picture of the inner workings of the patrol.

The report, which was released Monday, March 20, by the independently contracted Kroll Government Services, brings to a close the third-party investigation ordered by Gov. Phil Bredesen and Interim Safety Commissioner Gerald Nicely.

Specifically, the report points out an undercurrent of politics and cronyism that flows through the patrol’s ranks. However, according to the investigation, the problems started long before Bredesen took office in 2003.

“While we have found THP to be a professional organization from a public-facing, day-to-day operations perspective, we have, at the same time, found it to be an organization infused with and deeply affected by both internal and external politics,” the report said.

“While all indications are that the vast majority of individuals working for THP perform their daily law enforcement tasks with a high degree of professionalism, there is no question that politics has permeated hiring, assignment and promotion within the THP. This permeation has, by all accounts, been in place since the founding of THP and has come to be understood as ‘just the way it is.’ ”

Problems within Tennessee’s state and local police forces began to bubble to the surface in mid-2005, after an ongoing investigation The Tennessean reported dozens of allegations ranging from sexual misconduct to high-level cronyism.

One of the report’s key recommendations is the prohibition of state troopers from making financial donations to political campaigns, which became a key issue after The Tennessean revealed that two-thirds of all troopers who were promoted or recommended for promotion were tied to donations to Bredesen’s campaign.

However, a source with Bredesen’s office told The Tennessean that the banning of political contributions will probably not happen.

“(Bredesen) feels like people have a right to participate in the political process, and that includes making contributions to a campaign,” said Will Pinkston, a spokesman for Bredesen. “His view … is making sure there’s a well-developed, merit-based system of promotions that ignores party affiliation and political activity.”

A copy of the report can be viewed at: krollworldwide.com/library/THP/THP_Report_03-20-2006.pdf.

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