WREG looks at emails discussing citations issued by THP

MEMPHIS, Tenn.-- Meeting the mark or as some believe meeting a quota.

WREG is uncovering what some say are quotas set by high ups at the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans drive on these interstates every day.

Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers are assigned to the roadways to protect and enforce laws.

However some believe laws of enforcement are actually being broken.

A set of emails were anonymously sent to WREG. They were initially sent to troopers patrolling west Tennessee interstates.

Within the emails they call for troopers to meet a certain number of citations. Through a Freedom of information Act request we asked for the emails directly from the state and discovered they said the same thing.

In one email dated December 12, 2017 subject line, "Seat Belt Enforcement"  a captain writes, "At the beginning of the year I set a goal for all troopers to issue at least 200 CRD and seat belt citations."

It went on to say, "I asked that the few of you that have not met our goal to finish the year strong." Also saying, "We are doing a fantastic job in this area and I think it has contributed to the success we are having in a decrease in fatalities."

However, other emails have a much harsher tone.

Another email from a Sergeant sent a month later, subject, "Expectations of Haywood County Troopers," calls for more inspections and more citations no exceptions.

The Sergeant called for specific inspections, saying if that doesn't happen troopers will be reassigned per the Captain.

The sergeant discusses different levels of inspections saying, "If the weather is nice road troopers should have no less than 30 citations a week no exceptions. If activity does not improve troopers will be reassigned per the Captain."

And in a third email sent January 15 from a supervisor's meeting a list of expectations are laid out, 40 commercial vehicle inspections should be completed by June 30th, 60 total should be completed in 2018.

"My initial reaction is it's unfair to the trooper," said Memphis attorney Murray Wells.

Wells is familiar with this concept.

"This was an issue back in 2009, legislature took it up in 2010 so this is an ongoing problem."

We looked into the law, part of it stating, "A political subdivision or any agency of this state may not require or suggest to a law enforcement officer that the law enforcement officer is required or expected to issue a predetermined or specified number or any type of combination of types of traffic citations within a specified period."

And the threat of being reassigned?

That's addressed in the Annotated Code in Traffic Offense Performance Standards as well saying in part, "any agency of this state may not establish or maintain, formally or informally, a plan to evaluate, promote, compensate, or discipline a law enforcement officer solely by the issuance of a predetermined or specified number of any type or combination of types of traffic citations."

"It's unfair for the officer to have to dedicate part of his resources and his duty to protect and serve to meeting quotas set by some administrative person sitting behind a desk," explained Wells.

He continued to say, "Police officers may be compelled to pull people over. They may violate someones right because they're scared that they're going to lose their job or not get promoted or get passed by on something so it exposes the civil liberties of our citizens to undo and unnecessary pressure base on some administrative function."

Drivers we talked to were split on the issue.

" think its stunning I mean there 's a lot of people, we're working hard for whatever we have and if they're intentionally getting money from us to make a quota, that's sad," said one driver.

"I don't agree with it basically," added another woman.

Some believe enforcing seatbelt laws make our roads safer.

"I think it`s a good idea," said one south Memphis driver.

However Wells believes there is more to it, talking about the different fees involved with tickets.

There's motivation behind it probably deeper than just trying to keep you safe on the interstates. I think there is pressure on law enforcement be it county sheriff departments, be it municipal police departments to meet certain criteria because they have a budget they have to produce statistics they have to show production for their hours and they have to justify things like overtime.

WREG reached out to THP to get their side, they did not respond to our request for an interview but gave this statement:

The Tennessee Highway Patrol is a professional law enforcement agency that is charged to conduct traffic enforcement. If our troopers do not perform duties that they are charged with, then that leads to property damage, injury and fatal crashes on Tennessee roads. The citizens of Tennessee expect and deserve our troopers to patrol and take the appropriate enforcement steps needed to prevent those crashes.  If our troopers are not pulling over speeding motorist, drivers under the influence, reckless drivers, distracted drivers, motorist not wearing their seat belts and so on, then people die. In 2017, 1,039 people were killed on Tennessee roadways.  Could you imagine how high that number would be if our troopers did not do their job, and if our supervisors did not do theirs?  Most people who work for a living have a supervisor, and those supervisors expect an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.  The Tennessee Highway Patrol is no different.  The only difference is, if our troopers do not perform their duty and enforce traffic violations then we ultimately fail the citizens and visitors of this state and as I stated previously people die.  We do not have quotas as you suggested.