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Trooper Resigns from THP Following Domestic Assault Charge

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security; September 19, 2014:

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons and Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott announced Friday that a Tennessee state trooper in the Fall Branch District resigned from the department in lieu of termination following an internal investigation into an arrest on domestic assault charges.

The Johnson City Police Department charged Trooper Russel Holtsclaw, 28, with aggravated domestic assault on August 10 following a reported incident at his residence. The Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) placed Holtsclaw on administrative leave that same day. The department’s Investigative Services Bureau opened an internal investigation into the incident. All departmental equipment including weapons, badges and commission card were secured pending the investigation.

The department’s internal investigation resulted in the decision to terminate Holtsclaw. However, on Friday Holtsclaw resigned employment in lieu of termination. He has been assigned as a trooper to the Fall Branch District in east Tennessee since joining the department in January 2012.

The criminal case against Holtsclaw is pending.

“Allegations of domestic violence are absolutely not tolerated in the Tennessee Highway Patrol,” Colonel Trott said. “Regardless of the outcome of the pending criminal case, our investigation concludes that this trooper clearly violated policies of the department and his behavior is unacceptable for anyone who wears the THP badge,” Trott stated.

“We will continue to act quickly to respond to any allegations of domestic assault, conduct thorough investigations, and swiftly discipline employees of this department who commit such acts of violence,” Commissioner Gibbons said. “The actions of this one trooper do not reflect those of the men and women of the Tennessee Highway Patrol,” he added.

Haslam Creates Task Force on Sentencing, Recidivism

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; August 14, 2014:

Group to develop legislative and policy recommendations

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the formation of the Governor’s Task Force on Sentencing and Recidivism as part of the administration’s overall effort to reduce crime and improve public safety.

In June, the Governor’s Public Safety Subcabinet announced a partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice to review sentencing and correction policies and practices. The creation of a task force is the next step in that collaboration.

“We have put a strong emphasis on addressing some of our state’s toughest safety challenges head on, and the Public Safety Subcabinet is doing great work,” Haslam said. “This task force is a next step in making sure we have a comprehensive approach to public safety in Tennessee. I am grateful to the Tennesseans who have agreed to dedicate their time to these issues, and I look forward to their recommendations.”

Members of the task force include:

  • John Campbell, criminal court judge, Memphis
  • John DeBerry, state representative, Memphis
  • James Dunn, district attorney general, 4th judicial district
  • Tim Fuller, sheriff, Franklin County
  • Bill Gibbons, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security
  • Mark Gwyn, director, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
  • Kim Helper, district attorney general, 21st judicial district
  • Torry Johnson, district attorney general (retired), Nashville
  • Brian Kelsey, state senator, Germantown
  • William Lamberth, state representative, Cottontown
  • Linda Leathers, chief executive officer, The Next Door
  • William B. Lee, chief executive officer, Lee Company of Tennessee
  • Jon Lundberg, state representative, Bristol
  • Mark Luttrell, mayor, Shelby County
  • Becky Duncan Massey, state senator, Knoxville
  • Gerald Melton, public defender, 16th judicial district
  • Richard Montgomery, chairman, Tennessee Board of Parole
  • Seth Norman, criminal court judge, Nashville
  • Bill Oldham, sheriff, Shelby County
  • David Rausch, chief of police, Knoxville
  • Derrick Schofield, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Correction
  • John Stevens, state senator, Huntingdon
  • Blair Taylor, president, Memphis Tomorrow
  • D. Kelly Thomas, court of criminal appeals judge, Knoxville
  • Doug Varney, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse
  • Amy Weirich, district attorney general, Shelby County
  • Verna Wyatt, executive director, Tennessee Voices for Victims

The current sentencing structure in Tennessee has been in place for more than 20 years. An examination will ensure that the structure is in line with the variety and severity of criminal behavior. Establishing an effective set of sentencing laws can resolve inconsistencies and avoid discrepancies that compromise public safety.

The task force will receive assistance from the Vera Institute of Justice’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections. Vera staff will conduct data and policy analysis; identify expertise and resources to support the work of the task force; facilitate meetings and assist in the development of the task force recommendations.

The Vera Institute of Justice is a national, independent, non-partisan justice policy and research organization based in New York. Vera has decades of experience partnering with state and local governments across the United States to improve justice systems.

The task force will submit its recommendations to the Governor’s Public Safety Subcabinet by June 2015.

The subcabinet was created by Haslam in 2011 and launched a multi-year public safety action plan in 2012. The group includes commissioners of the departments of Safety and Homeland Security, Correction, Mental Health, Children’s Services, Health and Military, along with the chairman of the Tennessee Board of Parole, directors of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, Office of Criminal Justice Programs, Law Enforcement Training Academy and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

THP Announces ‘No Refusal’ Enforcement for Labor Day Weekend

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security; August 27, 2013:

NASHVILLE-— Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons and Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott today announced plans for a “No Refusal” enforcement campaign during the Labor Day holiday weekend. This special enforcement will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, August 30 and conclude at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, September 2.

The “No Refusal” enforcement will be conducted in 11 counties across the state, and is aimed at deterring impaired driving and reducing fatal crashes on Tennessee roadways. The “No Refusal” legislation allows law enforcement officials to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers.

“The ultimate goal is to save lives on Tennessee roadways. This targeted ‘No Refusal’ enforcement gives law enforcement and prosecutors another tool to hold drunk drivers accountable,” Commissioner Gibbons said.

The participating “No Refusal” counties include Roane (Knoxville District); Marion, McMinn, Meigs and Sequatchie (Chattanooga District); Rutherford (Nashville District); Fayette (Memphis District); Carter (Fall Branch District); Putnam (Cookeville District); Giles (Lawrenceburg District); and Henry County (Jackson District).

During the 2012 Labor Day holiday, 12 people were killed in 11 fatal crashes on Tennessee roadways. That’s the same as the 11 vehicular fatalities in 2010. Last year, alcohol was involved in two of the fatalities, and 64 percent of vehicle occupants killed were not wearing safety restraints.

“DUI is one of the categories targeted throughout the year and especially during the holidays,” Colonel Trott said. “During this ‘No Refusal’ campaign, we will focus our resources on specific areas and high-crash corridors across the state. Our high-visibility enforcement effort, which includes saturation patrols, bar and tavern checks and sobriety checkpoints, will help remove impaired drivers from the Tennessee roadways.”

Colonel Trott also noted the number of DUI arrests made by State Troopers in 2013. Troopers have arrested 3,728 individuals for impaired driving from January 1 through August 24, 2013. In 2012, the number of arrests made during that time was 3,414. That’s a nine percent increase during the same dates.

In Tennessee, the preliminary number of alcohol-related crashes has decreased 9.2 percent through the first seven months of 2013, compared to that same time period last year. From January through July of 2013, there have been 3,904 crashes involving impaired drivers. That is 361 fewer than the 4,265 crashes during those same dates in 2012.

Seat belt usage is another contributing factor in crashes across the state. To date this year, 49 percent of vehicle occupants killed in crashes were not wearing safety restraints.

Overall, as of August 27, 2013, preliminary statistics indicate 630 people have died on Tennessee roadways, a decrease of nearly eight percent compared to the 684 fatalities at this same time last year.

A list of the scheduled “No Refusal” and Labor Day enforcement checkpoints are attached. A 2013 Labor Day holiday statistical sheet also accompanies this release.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s (www.TN.Gov/safety) mission is to ensure that our state is a safe, secure place in which to live, work and travel; enforce the law with integrity; and provide customer-focused services professionally and efficiently.

Labor Day Weekend “No Refusal” checkpoints.
Labor Day 2012 Statistical FatalityReport.

DMV Wait-Times Down, Gun Permits Up: TN Dept. of Safety

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security; July 18, 2013:

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security today announced that the average wait time at state driver services centers has decreased so far this year compared to 2012.

The average wait time from January 1 – June 30 at centers statewide, excluding reinstatement centers, fell from 34 minutes in 2012 to 31.5 minutes in 2013. There was a slight increase, however, from the first quarter of 2013 in which the average wait time was 30.5 minutes compared to the second quarter when the wait time averaged 32 minutes.

The decrease in wait time for the first six months happened while the number of statewide transactions at driver services centers increased. Driver license examiners served 621,405 customers from January 1 – June 30, 2012. In the first six months of 2013, the number of customers grew to 626,211.

“We are monitoring these figures very closely. Reducing the wait time at our driver service centers is a priority so when we experience an increase we act immediately to identify the reasons,” Commissioner Bill Gibbons said.

Gibbons attributed the increase in the second quarter of 2013 in part to the increase in handgun carry permit applications as well as the installation of new equipment.

During the first six months of 2013, the department accepted 86,334 handgun carry permit applications at driver services centers, compared to 40,503 applications accepted during the first six months of 2012. That is an increase of 113 percent.

The department continues to install new equipment and software at all driver services centers in preparation for a new central issuance process of issuing driver licenses. While this new process is expected to help reduce wait times in the future, the installation of the equipment is causing some delays.

The Driver Services Division is also in the process of hiring additional part-time employees to help the centers at peak hours. Funding for the positions was appropriated in the current state budget.

“The new equipment and additional staff should help us in the long term provide better and more efficient service to our customers,” Gibbons noted.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s (www.TN.Gov/safety) mission is to ensure that our state is a safe, secure place in which to live, work and travel; enforce the law with integrity; and provide customer-focused services professionally and efficiently.

THP Announces 14% Decline in Traffic Fatalities for 2013

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security; July 8, 2013:

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) Colonel Tracy Trott today announced the preliminary number of traffic fatalities on state roadways have decreased by nearly 14 percent (13.8%) for the first six months of 2013, compared to the same time period in 2012. The THP reported 436 people died in traffic crashes in Tennessee from January 1 through June 30, 2013. That is 70 fewer than the 506 vehicular fatalities that occurred during the same dates in 2012. Please note these figures include vehicular fatalities reported by all law enforcement agencies across the state.

Colonel Trott also noted a 10.7 percent decline in alcohol-related crashes investigated by the THP. State Troopers worked 975 impaired driving accidents from January 1 through June 30, 2013, a drop from the 1,092 crashes involving alcohol the previous year during the same time frame.

“DUI enforcement has become one of our agency’s top priorities in the last few years. We have arrested 3,151 individuals on suspicion of impaired driving during the first six months of this year – a 9.8 percent increase from the 2,870 DUI arrests made the first half of 2012,” Colonel Trott said. “Each time we remove a drunk driver from our roadways, we reduce the chance of a serious injury or fatal crash occurring,” he added.

“The efforts of the Tennessee Highway Patrol is evident in the data produced on the roadways,” Department of Safety and Homeland Security Bill Commissioner said. “We are encouraged by the reduction of crashes investigated, specifically injury and alcohol-related across the state. Our hope is to continue this trend and keep the motoring public safe in Tennessee.”

THP has also placed a greater emphasis on seat belt enforcement in 2013. As of June 30, 2013, State Troopers have issued 37,191 seat belt citations in Tennessee. That’s 14,000 more seat belt citations or a 62.3 percent increase than those issued during the first six months of 2012. Colonel Trott believes the seat belt enforcement has resulted in a 31.2 percent decline in the number of unrestrained fatalities across the state.

A summary of THP’s six month performance measures are listed below. Statistics for the recent Fourth of July holiday period will be released at a later date.

THP Statewide Six-Month Performance Measures

January 1 – June 30, 2013

Performance Measure                                                 2012            2013

All Crashes Investigated                                          12,381          12,013

Injury Crashes Investigated                                     4,841            4,370

Alcohol Impaired Crashes                                        1,092              975

Traffic Fatalities                                                             506              436

DUI Arrests                                                                     2,870            3,151

Total Citations                                                          179,259        196,716

Seat Belt Citations                                                      22,911           37,191

Commercial Motor Vehicle Inspections           41,286          44,462