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Witnesses Announced for Mid-Sept Criminal Justice Reform Hearing

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; August 26, 2014:

(NASHVILLE, TN) August 26, 2014 – Senator Brian Kelsey today released the names of the witnesses scheduled to testify regarding proposed criminal justice reforms in Tennessee. The hearing will occur before the Senate Judiciary Committee September 15 – 16.

“These experts will help us learn from other states how to best protect the public while saving taxpayer dollars. Our committee is privileged to partner with such talented witnesses in the effort to improve the criminal justice system in Tennessee,” explained Senator Kelsey.

The witnesses will provide testimony on the following three subjects: 1) Criminal Justice Reform: How we got where we are in Tennessee, 2) Criminal Justice Reform: What other states have done, and 3) Criminal Justice Reform: Suggested changes for Tennessee.

The scheduled witnesses for the hearings are as follows:

  • Sheriff Robert Arnold, Rutherford County
  • Beth Ashe, Executive Director, Tennessee Corrections Institute
  • Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper
  • District Attorney General D. Michael Dunavant, 25th Judicial District, Fayette, Hardeman, Lauderdale, McNairy, and Tipton Counties
  • Paige Edwards, Tennessee Public Defender’s Conference
  • Rebecca Silber and Nancy Fishman, VERA Institute of Justice
  • Tommy Francis, Tennessee State Employees Association
  • Mayor Terry Frank, Anderson County, Tennessee
  • Commissioner Bill Gibbons, Tennessee Department of Safety
  • Mark Gwyn, Director, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
  • Marc Levin, Director, Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation
  • Mayor Mark Luttrell, Shelby County, Tennessee
  • John G. Malcolm, Director, Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies
  • Richard Montgomery, Chairman, Tennessee Board of Parole
  • Justin Owen, President/CEO, Beacon Center of Tennessee
  • Chief David Rausch, Knoxville Police Department
  • David Raybin, Esq., criminal defense attorney
  • Justyna Scalpone, Tennessee Office of the Post-Conviction Defender
  • Commissioner Derrick D. Schofield, Tennessee Department of Correction
  • Chris Slobogin, Professor, Vanderbilt College of Law; member, Tennessee Consultation on Criminal Justice
  • District Attorney General Barry Staubus, 2nd Judicial District, Sullivan County, Tennessee
  • Thomas E. Tique, Chief Deputy Attorney, Tennessee General Assembly Office of Legal Services
  • Commissioner E. Douglas Varney, Tennessee Department of Mental Health
  • Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director, ACLU of Tennessee
  • Charlie White, Director, Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents
  • Judge John Everett Williams, Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals

Senator Kelsey represents Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown. He is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

TFA Open Records Request Reveals Fiscal Note Process Manipulated on Open Carry

Press release from the Tennessee Firearms Association; July 14, 2014:

Nashville, TN – After a series of ‘Open Records Requests’ the Tennessee Firearms Association has uncovered documented evidence of misleading statements and the falsifying of a contrived fiscal note. These questionable actions were carried out by members of the Haslam Administration during the 2014 legislative session in an attempt to kill a pro-gun bill.

“This was apparently a deliberate ploy to kill legislation that the Haslam Administration opposed by misrepresenting the effect of the bill to the legislators,” noted John Harris, Executive Director of the Tennessee Firearms Association. “Underhanded tactics such as this are unacceptable and Governor Haslam owes the citizens of Tennessee an explanation.”

The fiscal note fiasco started earlier this year when Sen. Mae Beavers and Rep. Micah Van Huss sponsored legislation to allow the open carry of handguns without a permit. The bill passed the Senate 25-2 (SB2424), despite behind the scenes opposition from the Haslam Administration. As the open carry bill moved through the House after passing in the Senate, it was delayed and then voted down in a Finance Sub-Committee after having a false fiscal note attached. The full House of Representative never considered the bill because of the shenanigans involving the false fiscal note in House Finance.

The fiscal note, added by the Administration, claimed that the open carry bill would cost the state government $100,000 by requiring that the word “concealed” be added to every valid handgun permit in Tennessee. However, the bill itself contained no such requirement. When pressed, the Department of Safety responded that departmental policy required adding the word “concealed” to the permits. However, when a request was made for the specific policy, the Department of Safety admitted that no such policy actually existed.

Almost 3,000 pages of state documents obtained by the Tennessee Firearms Association through the Open Records Requests reveal that a Haslam administration official, Bill Hedge, citing the non-existent “departmental policy” on behalf of the Tennessee Department of Safety, estimated that it would cost the State $100,000 to add the word “concealed” when handgun permits are printed. The administration’s estimate caused a “fiscal note” to be placed on the legislation and forced it to be rerouted to the House Finance Committee which is under the control of Rep. Charles Sargent.

After a legislative amendment (HA1127) was introduced to prohibit the Administration’s proposal to add the word “concealed” on each permit, Mr. Hedge defiantly declared in an April 8, 2014, e-mail that:

“Even though the amendment removed the requirement, the department by policy will in fact continue the designation of ‘Concealed’ on the Handgun Carry Permit….I am certifying that the department will in fact incur the (costs) to reflect the ‘concealed’ provision….”

Further, when pressed concerning which department policy required such a change, the Department of Safety admitted that it had misrepresented that there was an existing departmental policy as reflecting in an e-mail from Bill Hedge dated April 14, 2014:

“Currently, a written policy concerning information contained on the permit, including the ‘title’ of the document, does not exist.”

More significantly, the Open Records Requests revealed that the Department of Safety is under a multi-million dollar contract with a third party, L-1 Credentialing, Inc., to design and print the handgun permits along with other similar official state documents. That contract requires the third party to make changes in the design and format of the permits at no additional charge to state government. Department of Safety documents do not reference this contract in discussing the $100,000 estimate by Hedge nor do they detail why it would cost $100,000 to print the word “concealed” on the handgun permits even after the proposed legislation it was made clear by the sponsors that the legislation did not alter the handgun permits or convert them into concealed carry permits. The documents also reveal that the Haslam Administration was actively fighting the bill, that Department of Safety officials were working to stop the bill by creating estimates of printing costs, and that certain legislators were involved to create a fiscal note ensuring that the bill was rerouted to the House Finance Committee.

After the false Administration estimate was attached to the bill as a fiscal note, House rules required that the bill be considered by Charles Sargent’s Finance Committee because it had a (falsely) estimated cost to state government. Bill Gibbons, Commissioner of the Department of Safety, testified under oath that the legislation would add a concealment requirement to Tennessee’s handgun permits and that it would cost approximately $100,000 to start printing the word “concealed” on the handgun permits. The documents obtained in response to the Open Records Requests suggest that Commissioner Gibbons’ sworn testimony to the House Finance subcommittee was false in both respects. Mr. Gibbons’ testimony can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_jeeCqS-VU

Legislative records indicate that the House Finance subcommittee knew that Gibbons’ testimony was false or misleading because the chairman announced just prior to the committee vote that they would assume a zero fiscal impact to the state for purposes of their votes on the legislation. Then, 10 members of the House Finance committee refused to allow the legislation to be moved forward thus prohibiting it from consideration by all members of the House of Representatives.

A complete and detailed write up, including source documents, will be available on the TFA web site soon: http://www.tennesseefirearms.org/news/item/10-fiscal-note-fiasco

The Tennessee Firearms Association was founded in 1995 and formed to defend the right to keep and bear arms in Tennessee. The TFA is Tennessee’s only no-compromise gun group.

THP to Increase Road Presence for Holiday Weekend

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Safety; July 1, 2014:

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) will conduct a high-visibility enforcement campaign during this year’s Fourth of July holiday period, beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, July 3 and ending at midnight on Sunday, July 6. State troopers will utilize a variety of traffic safety tools, such as driver’s license, sobriety and seat belt checkpoints, saturation patrols, and “No Refusal” enforcement, in an effort to reduce serious injury and fatal crashes on Tennessee roadways.

In 2013, 19 people were killed in 15 fatal crashes in Tennessee during the 102-hour holiday period. That’s down from 21 vehicular fatalities during the 2012 Fourth of July period. Of the 19 traffic fatalities last year, five (26.3%) were alcohol-related and 13 (86.7%) were not wearing safety restraints, including one child passenger. One all-terrain vehicle (ATV) rider also died during the holiday period.

“We urge all Tennesseans and visitors traveling through our state to wear their seat belts,” Colonel Tracy Trott said. “State troopers will aggressively seek out violators of the seat belt law and those driving recklessly or distracted. It’s our goal to get everyone to their destination safely,” he added.

During the first six months of 2014, preliminary statistics show that 52 percent of traffic fatalities were unrestrained motorists and 77 vehicular deaths (17.5 %) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.

Two counties in middle Tennessee, specifically Bedford and Rutherford Counties, have been designated “No Refusal” areas during the Fourth of July holiday period. “No Refusal” permits law enforcement officials to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers. THP District Captains have selected those counties based on an increase in crashes, DUI-related, injury or fatal.

“One of our priorities as an agency is DUI enforcement,” Colonel Trott said. “The collective goal is to keep drunk drivers off the road and reduce alcohol-related fatalities on state roadways. State troopers will work hard throughout the holiday period to keep the roads safe.”

State troopers arrested 132 individuals statewide on suspicion of impaired driving during last year’s Fourth of July period.

As of July 1, preliminary statistics indicate 441 people have died on Tennessee roadways, a decrease of 17 deaths compared to 458 fatalities at this same time in 2013.

A list of scheduled checkpoints for this holiday period can be found here.

THP to Increase Patrols for Halloween

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security; October 29, 2013:

NASHVILLE —The Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) Colonel Tracy Trott announced today that State Troopers will plan for increased patrols and conduct a variety of enforcement plans to help ensure a safe Halloween for citizens across the state.

Halloween is consistently one of the top three days for pedestrian injuries and fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate children are four times as likely to be struck by a vehicle on Halloween as any other day. NHTSA also noted that 52 percent of all national fatalities occurring on Halloween night involve a drunk driver.

“We are urging motorists to pay attention to the road and don’t drive distracted or impaired. State Troopers will seek out and remove any aggressive or impaired drivers from our roadways to allow for a safe and happy Halloween,” Colonel Trott said.

Last year in Tennessee, three people were killed during the Halloween period between 6 p.m. on October 31 through 6 a.m., November 1. Two of those fatalities were alcohol-related. That compares to zero fatalities during the Halloween period in 2011.

As of October 28, there have been 66 pedestrian fatalities in Tennessee in 2013. That’s 15 more pedestrian deaths compared to this same time last year. The CDC reported that alcohol involvement – either for the driver or pedestrian – was reported in 47 percent of traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian fatalities nationwide.

According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA), 115 child pedestrian fatalities occurred on Halloween over a 21-year period (1990-2010). That is more than twice the average number of 2.6 fatalities on other days of the year. The study also concluded it was particularly dangerous between the hours of 6:00-7:00 p.m.

In 2012, state troopers issued 328 speeding citations and arrested 13 individuals on suspicion of drunk driving on October 31.

This Halloween, the THP will conduct bar and tavern checks, sobriety checkpoints, and seat belt saturations across the state. Below are tips parents, children and motorists should keep in mind before heading this Halloween.

HALLOWEEN SAFETY TIPS

Tips for Motorists

  • Slow down. Watch for children walking on roads, medians and curbs.
  • Be extra alert when pulling in and out of driveways.
  • Be especially alert for children darting out from between parked vehicles and from behind bushes and shrubs. They’re excited and may not be paying attention.
  • Do not pass other vehicles that have stopped in the roadway. They could be dropping off children.
  • If you are driving to a Halloween party, put your mask on after you park the car.
  • Never drink and drive – tonight or any night. If you are partying, designate a driver.

Tips for Parents

  • Adults should accompany children at all times and supervise their “trick or treat” activities.
  • Teach children to “stop, look left-right-left, and listen” before they cross the street.
  • Instruct children to stay on sidewalks and to cross only at corners or crosswalks.
  • Use a flashlight and wear retro-reflective strips or patches on your clothing or costume to be more visible to motorists.
  • Be certain that the mask does not obstruct vision or hearing.
  • Ensure that costumes do not impede walking or driving ability.

Tips for Pedestrians (children and adults)

  • Require children to wear retro-reflective materials and carry a flashlight at dawn and dusk and in other low-light situations, such as rainy or foggy weather.
  • Before crossing a street, stop at the curb or edge of the road and look left, right and left again to be sure no cars are coming. Continue to check for traffic while on the street.
  • Walk – never run – from house to house or across the road.
  • Cross the street only at intersections and crosswalks.
  • When crossing at an intersection with a traffic light, be sure to watch for turning cars. Obey all pedestrian signals.
  • Walk on sidewalks whenever possible. If there are no sidewalks, walk on the left side of the street facing traffic.

THP Accepting Applications for Citizens’ Training Academies

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Safety; January 14, 2013:

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Highway Patrol is now accepting applications for the spring session of its Citizens’ Trooper Academy. For the first time, academies will be held in both Nashville and Memphis. The first session for the Nashville class is scheduled to begin Monday, March 11, 2013. Sessions will run from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. weekly. The Memphis class is scheduled to begin on Thursday, March 14, 2013. Sessions for this group will run from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. weekly.

The Citizens’ Trooper Academy, which consists of approximately 24-30 hours of training, is designed to develop a better understanding and awareness of the Tennessee Highway Patrol as well as its parent agency, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, in the community through a hands-on approach. Topics covered include investigations, special operations, homeland security and many other areas of the patrol.

Participants must be at least 21 years old, available to attend weekly three-hour sessions with no more than one absence, sign required waivers and agreements and have no criminal history.

Applications are available on the departmental website (www.tn.gov/safety), the THP Facebook page (www.facebook.com/tennesseehighwaypatrol), or citizens may request applications by sending an email message to email.safety@tn.gov. Applicants are asked to indicate whether they wish to attend the Nashville or Memphis sessions.

Deadline for registration is February 11, 2013. Applications must be returned by that date for processing.

For more information, contact Sergeant Stan Hollandsworth at 615-251-6321, Trooper Chris Dye at 615-232-2901, or Shannon Hall at 615-251-5170.

THP Arrested 96 for New Year’s DUI, Drew Blood from 2 Under ‘No Refusal’

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Safety; January 3, 2012:

NASHVILLE —The Tennessee Highway Patrol arrested 96 individuals on suspicion of impaired driving in counties participating in the “No Refusal” enforcement effort over the New Year’s holiday period. The holiday period ran from 6 p.m., Friday, December 28 through midnight on Tuesday, January 1, 2013. Two suspects refused to take a breathalyzer test, resulting in warrants for a blood sample under the “No Refusal” law.

The “No Refusal” law allows law enforcement officials to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers. The goal is to deter impaired driving and reduce fatal crashes on Tennessee roadways.

Sixteen counties, two from each of the eight THP Districts, participated in this special DUI enforcement, including Knox and Sevier (Knoxville District); Hamilton and Marion (Chattanooga District); Robertson and Wilson (Nashville District); Crockett and Tipton (Memphis District); Carter and Greene (Fall Branch District); Cumberland and Overton (Cookeville District); Bedford and Maury (Lawrenceburg District); and Chester and Carroll (Jackson District).

Preliminary reports indicate that three people were killed in three separate crashes in participating “No Refusal” areas, specifically Hamilton, Knox and Wilson counties. None of those crashes was alcohol-related.

Overall, seven people were killed in five total crashes during the New Year’s Eve period, compared to five vehicular fatalities during last year’s period. Two of the vehicle occupants were not wearing seat belts. Additionally, two people killed were pedestrians.

The results for the 16-county “No Refusal” enforcement effort are listed below.

 

Knox County

DUI arrests: 8

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Sevier County

DUI arrests: 1

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Hamilton County

DUI Arrests: 31

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 1

 

Marion County

DUI Arrests: 4

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Robertson County

DUI Arrests: 4

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Wilson County

DUI Arrests: 5

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Crockett County

DUI Arrests: 5

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 1

 

Tipton County

DUI Arrests: 4

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Carter County 

DUI Arrests: 4

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Greene County

DUI Arrests: 10

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Cumberland County

DUI Arrests: 3

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Overton County

DUI Arrests: 5

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Bedford County

DUI Arrests: 4

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Maury County

DUI Arrests: 7

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Carroll County

DUI Arrests: 1

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Chester County

DUI Arrests: 0

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

State Warns of Christmas Season Identity Theft

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security; November 21, 2012: 

NASHVILLE — The start of the holiday season not only brings excitement to many people, it also brings concern about identity theft to millions of consumers who kick off the holiday shopping season with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. December is Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month and, according to the Federal Trade Commission, it is also the time of year when most identity crime occurs.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Identity Crimes Unit warns consumers to beware of identity thieves who victimize holiday shoppers. The unit urges holiday shoppers to take precautions to protect their identity during the busy holiday season.

“During the holiday shopping season, citizens are making more transactions and spending more money than any other time of the year. Identity thieves are looking for easy targets, and there are many more opportunities for them to steal your identity and ruin your credit,” said Captain Stacy Williams of the Identity Crimes Unit.

The Identity Crimes Unit offers these tips to help keep holiday shoppers safe:

  • When paying by credit card, don’t allow clerks to put your receipts in your bag. Instead, carry receipts in your wallet where they are safer and less likely to fall out of bags.
  • Watch cashiers, waiters, and bartenders, ensuring that they don’t “skim” or save your card number for later use.
  • When paying by check. Never allow merchants to write your social security number on the check.
  • Use a gel ink pen—preferably black—to write checks. The ink will permeate the fibers and make it difficult for the check to be cleaned and reused.
  • When shopping online, be careful of wireless internet connections. Only use those that require a security key or certificate.
  • Shop on secure, reputable websites by looking for addresses that start with “https” and include a small padlock icon.
  • Never offer personal information, especially your social security number, to online stores.
  • Leave suspicious websites immediately.
  • Read customer reviews before ordering products.
  • Use a credit card and not a debit card, which makes it harder for you to get funds back and gives thieves access to funds in your bank account.
  • Avoid carrying a social security card, birth certificate, passport, bank information or paychecks when hitting the stores. You could easily lose them and identity thieves find these particularly helpful.
  • Check your bank statements, credit card bills, and credit reports often, helping to quickly catch any efforts to use your identity.

Identity fraud, the actual misuse of stolen identity information, is an increasing problem in the United States. According to a report by Javelin Strategy and Research, more than 11.6 million Americans were victims of identity fraud in 2011, an increase of 13 percent over 2010.

Last year, for the 12th year in a row, identity theft topped the list of consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission. Of the more than 1.8 million complaints filed with the FTC in 2011, 15 percent were related to identity theft.

The Department of Safety and Homeland Security Identity Crimes Unit was formed earlier this year to combat the increase in identity theft and related crimes in Tennessee. The unit is comprised of employees from three divisions of the department: Tennessee Highway Patrol, Office of Homeland Security, and Driver Services Division.

If you have been the victim of an identity crime, you can get information and help by downloading a resource kit for identity theft victims from http://www.tn.gov/safety/ICU.shtml.

Fmr. Safety Dept. Employee Admits Taking $20K in Bribes for Licenses, Permits

A former Tennessee Department of Safety employee pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to one count of accepting more than $5,000 in bribes related to issuing driver’s licenses and permits to unauthorized individuals.

Larry Murphy, 54, of Antioch, had been charged with one count of accepting bribes and one count of conspiracy to produce identification documents without lawful authority while employed as a supervisory license examiner for the Department of Safety at the Hart Lane licensing facility in Nashville, according to court documents.

Murphy, a Gulf War veteran and Army retiree, was indicted, along with co-defendant Anny Castillo-Diaz, in May, following a five-month joint investigation by the FBI, the Federal Department of Homeland Security and the Tennessee Department of Safety, according to court documents.

The indictment charged that Murphy had accepted bribes from Castillo in order to produce driver’s licenses and permits for individuals who had either not taken or not passed the necessary exams.

At his hearing in Nashville before U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp, Murphy admitted that during the period between December 2011 and April 2012 he had unlawfully received at least $20,000 in bribes for issuing unauthorized licenses and permits, including special commercial permits for large trucks.

Many of these transactions occurred while being recorded by undercover agents posing as customers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Middle District of Tennessee.

According to his plea agreement, Murphy must forfeit all compensation received for the licenses issued.

“The defendant not only violated the law, he put the public’s safety at risk,” Bill Gibbons, commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security, said in a news release. “That behavior will not be tolerated.

Murphy’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 15. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Castillo, who is charged with paying bribes, conspiracy to produce identification documents without lawful authority, unlawful sale of U.S. citizenship documents and the sale of a Social Security card, had been scheduled to go to trial Tuesday morning, according to court documents.

However, she made a motion for a change of plea to guilty, and a hearing on that motion is now scheduled for today.

Alex Harris is with the Seigenthaler News Service-MTSU. He can be reached at alexander.harris.lf@gmail.com.

State Recognizes 24 Emergency Workers for First Responder Efforts

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Safety; Sept. 10, 2012: 

NASHVILLE— Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s Chief of Staff Mark Cate and Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons were among several state officials to honor 24 individuals from across the state for their service as emergency first responders.

The First Responder Awards Ceremony, held at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) headquarters, celebrated those who have dedicated their lives for the safety and security of all Tennesseans. The special ceremony has been held each year since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The event is also held in conjunction with National Preparedness Month.

“It has been more than a decade since the 9/11 attacks on the United States. However, we will always remember the public servants like you, who were willing to risk their lives and rescue as many people as possible. The lessons learned on that day have changed the way you all train for emergencies or disasters, for the better,” Cate said.

The 24 individuals recognized at Monday’s ceremony were nominated by their peers and represent each of the 11 Homeland Security districts in Tennessee, as well as the TBI, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), Tennessee Citizen Corps., and the Tennessee Highway Patrol. (The names and biographies of the honorees are attached separately.)

“This ceremony is an important reminder that we should recognize all of the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way for our safety. Tennessee’s law enforcement officers and first responders have selflessly put the lives of strangers before their own. The daily sacrifices they make to keep us safe are worthy of recognition,” Gibbons said.

The ceremony is one of the Office of Homeland Security’s National Preparedness Month activities. National Preparedness Month is a nationwide effort encouraging Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies. Critical to the preparedness process are the men and women who serve our state and citizens as first responders.

State of Tennessee 2012 First Responder Award Receivers.

Traffic Fatalities at a 48-Year Low: Safety Department

Press Release from the Department of Safety; Jan. 12, 2012: 

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security officials today announced preliminary figures indicating the state has recorded the fewest number of traffic fatalities in 48 years. In 2011, there were 947 traffic-related deaths on Tennessee roadways, representing the lowest figure since 1963 when 941 people were killed as a result of a crash.

Last year’s preliminary number of 947 traffic deaths marks just the third time in 48 years vehicular fatalities have dipped below 1,000. Since 2006, Tennessee traffic fatalities have declined by 26.2 percent, including a drop in fatalities involving large trucks (34.5%), pedalcyclists (28.6%), motorcyclists (19.1%) and pedestrians (4.5%).

In 2011, State Troopers arrested 4,689 impaired drivers, rising 39 percent from the previous year. Additionally, drunk driving deaths fell 31.6 percent from 2006 to 2010. On the other hand, seat belt usage still causes a major concern for law enforcement officials and highway safety advocates. While 2011 data indicates the safety belt usage rate was 87.4 percent in Tennessee, 56.3 percent of vehicle occupants killed in fatal crashes were not buckled up.

“The 2011 decline in vehicular fatalities is a credit to the hard work and dedication of the Tennessee Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies, as well as a successful partnership with the Governor’s Highway Safety Office,” Commissioner Bill Gibbons said. “We are deploying State Troopers on a proactive basis to maximize the impact on public safety. The dramatic increase in DUI arrests reflects that effort on our part.”

Thanks to increased public awareness campaigns, along with traffic safety and driving under the influence (DUI) enforcement, the THP investigated fewer injury and alcohol-related crashes statewide in 2011. State Troopers worked 10,000 injury wrecks and 1,090 impaired driving crashes statewide last year, representing an 8.4 percent and 25.6 percent decline, respectively, from 2010.

“One life lost is one too many, but we are encouraged by last year’s fatality results and will continue to make every effort to ensure the public’s safety on Tennessee roadways,” THP Colonel Tracy Trott said. “From the beginning, I have pushed our personnel to intensify DUI enforcement across the state. The 2011 results are in part due to the sacrifice each Tennessee State Trooper has made to save lives.”

“The Tennessee Highway Patrol, along with all of the county and municipal officers, worked hard to help us achieve this success,” Governor’s Highway Safety Office (GHSO) Director Kendell Poole said. “Throughout the year, we work with each agency to support and coordinate safety initiatives in order to increase safety belt usage, combat impaired driving and educate the public on responsible habits on the road. We will continue to support these efforts and help make a positive impact in Tennessee.”

Funding provided by the Governor’s Highway Safety Office has allowed the THP to continue providing increased enforcement and public awareness campaigns for the safety and security of state highways. Their financial support allows Troopers to work additional hours during special enforcement campaigns.

“We wouldn’t be able to perform our duties without the continued support of our state and federal highway safety partners,” Colonel Trott said. “While the decline in Tennessee traffic fatalities is a good sign, there is still more work to be done to ensure the safety of traveling motorists. We look forward to the challenge and the year ahead.”

THP Statewide Performance Measures 

Performance Measure; 2010; 2011

All Crashes Investigated; 29,154; 26,967

Injury Crashes Investigated; 10,921; 10,000

Alcohol Impaired Crashes; 1,466; 1,090

Traffic Fatalities; 1,031; 947

DUI Arrests; 3,374; 4,689

Total Citations; 303,555; 312,501

CMV Citations; 29,997; 28,373

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s mission is (www.tennessee.gov/safety) to ensure the safety and general welfare of the public. The department encompasses the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Office of Homeland Security and Driver License Services. General areas of responsibility include law enforcement, safety education, motorist services and terrorism prevention.