Tennessee officer accused of conducting unauthorized background check

| 8/26/2008

A newspaper reporter who has written articles about the Tennessee Highway Patrol was the target of an unauthorized background check by an officer who’s believed to have conducted similar checks on 182 other people.

After the reporter for The Tennessean, Brad Schrade, had written about punishments doled out to troopers for leaking information, Lt. Ronnie Shirley of the Highway Patrol ran a background check on him. Shirley is now the focus of an internal investigation.

Mark Silverman, the newspaper’s editor, said the background check on Schrade “smacks of the intimidation and retribution you would expect to find in a totalitarian state.”

Gov. Phil Bredesen was quoted by The Tennessean as expressing confidence that the Highway Patrol is handling the investigation appropriately. He said he believed that the checks were the result of “general nosiness and curiosity” rather than an effort to troll for politically sensitive information.