“ABSOLUTELY NO QUOTA SYSTEM”

by Sharon Rondeau

(Jul. 28, 2015) — On Thursday, The Post & Email returned a call from Lt. Bill Miller, spokesman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP), to ask a series of questions about the agency’s jurisdiction, responsibilities, methods, and public records availability following our coverage of the case of Spencer Curtis Schuelke, who was arrested by Trooper John Welker last December and protests his innocence as well as abuse by bondsmen and the Rutherford County General Sessions Court.

Schuelke was charged with DUI and underage drinking and indicted by the Rutherford County grand jury on July 6 on three counts.

Miller returned our call from Wednesday after we directed several questions about the case and the jurisdiction of the THP to Welker via voice mail.

Schuelke’s father, Dennis, believes his son is being retaliated against for his own activism in exposing public corruption on the local and state levels.  Dennis has been a frequent guest on radio shows and in 2011 testified before a joint legislative committee on judicial misconduct.  He is also author of “Attorneys Above the Law” which relates his experience with a Tennessee attorney who Schuelke claims remains unaccountable for the money he accepted for professional services which were never completed.  Dennis Schuelke also reported that he was shocked when certain judges refused to take action on his complaint against the attorney.

Last year, a joint study between the University of Hong Kong and the University of Indiana ranked Tennessee third in public corruption out of the 50 states.

Spencer Schuelke reports that he has received no documentation in the mail pertaining to the charges, and later, the indictments.  He has had to post bond twice, had his pilot’s license suspended and lost his job as a result of the December arrest.  He was arrested a second time by bondsmen who claimed that he had missed a court hearing at which his presence was required, but Schuelke said he was never notified.

Over the last six years, The Post & Email has exposed numerous cases of judicial, law enforcement, grand jury, and prosecutorial corruption, some of which has been supported by mainstream media reports.  A well-known case of police brutality in Monroe County was the subject of an interview with the victim, who afterward received threats through The Post & Email for having come forward with his harrowing story.

Miller related that he was a THP supervisor before becoming public information officer.  He described the purpose of THP employees as “to save lives.”

When we mentioned that we had questions regarding the Schuelke case, including the name of the dispatcher, he said that while he did not have the particulars in front of him, he could most likely obtain that information for us.

During the 30+ minute conversation, Miller informed us that all Tennessee Highway Patrolmen carry body cameras which are “projected outward and inward.” He explained that rather than being relegated to only state highways or rural areas, “We have full jurisdiction” everywhere in the state of Tennessee.  “We don’t have to ask permission,” Miller said.  He also stated that troopers can “self-deploy” if they perceive a need.

In the case of training exercises or planned activity concentrated in a particular area, Miller said that the THP provides the courtesy of informing the local jurisdiction prior to the commencement of such activity.

The Post & Email asked Miller what type of conversation would typically be captured on a DUI dispatch call, to which he responded, “Every DUI is different.  Someone might be swerving into traffic or making hard stops and starts.  There could be a variety of conversations.”  However, he said that a 911 call may not contain any of those specifics.

Miller said that at times, information comes in from another law enforcement entity or is relayed to a dispatcher by a private citizen observing the event.

We related that on the recording which dispatched Welker to Schuelke’s location on the night of December 12, 2014, the repetition of the number “3368” is heard along with Schuelke’s then-address at 2520 Chalice Drive, Murfreesboro, TN.  When we asked Miller what that could have meant, he responded that the oft-repeated “3368” could have been the “tag number” of Schuelke’s vehicle and that a “bystander could have called local police” to report the suspected DUI.

Miller reported that the THP has partnered with IBM to utilize “predicted analytics” in order to reduce alcohol-related events in high-probability areas with an “up to 72% accuracy rate.”  He also said that 2014 was a “record year for the lowest number of fatalities” related to alcohol consumption and driving in the Volunteer State.  “Troopers are working hard and smarter,” he said.

Regarding anyone who believes his civil or constitutional rights have been violated by a Tennessee Highway Patrolman, the agency has a Special Services Bureau to handle such complaints, Miller said.

The Post & Email asked Miller if a law enforcement “quota system” for writing infraction tickets exists, as has been reported by the Johnson City Press, citing anonymous THP patrolmen; the Knoxville News Sentinel blog; and Channel 5 in a story which has since been removed from the web.  Channel 5 conducted a four-year study on “policing for profit” carried out primarily by county sheriffs’ departments as reported by Phil Williams as recently as last month.

Miller responded that there is “absolutely no quota system and never has been.”

Following the conversation, The Post & Email submitted a Public Records request for documentation pertaining to the Schuelke case which reads as follows:

Thank you very much, Lt. Miller, for taking the time to speak with me this morning regarding the THP and its responsibilities toward the public.  Regarding the specific case I am following, there are actually three numbers assigned:

368735
368736
368737

The accused is Spencer Curtis Schuelke, whose address at the time was 2520 Chalice Drive, Murfreesboro, TN  37127.  The arrest occurred on the evening of December 12, 2014 at that address and reportedly in his driveway.

Under the Tennessee Public Records Act, I am seeking the following:

  • the audio recording of the arrest between Trooper John Welker and Spencer Schuelke
  • a copy of the police report of the incident
  • the name of the dispatcher who alerted Welker to Schuelke’s reported DUI behavior
  • any evidence presented to the Rutherford grand jury by the THP supporting Schuelke’s alleged infractions for which three indictments were issued on July 6, 2015

I am requesting the documentation as a member of the media to more thoroughly inform the public of police/government interaction with citizens.

I am willing to pay reasonable costs for the documentation up to $25.00.  I can accept everything electronically for your convenience.

Thank you very much.

Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
www.thepostemail.com
P.O. Box 113
Canterbury, CT  06331-0113
Phone/Fax:  203-987-7948

On Friday, we received the following response (the attachment is presented below):

Ms. Rondeau,
After consulting with the departments legal division the department is not able to comply with your request.  Please see the attached.
Lieutenant Bill Miller| Public Information Officer
Tennessee Highway Patrol
Department of Safety & Homeland Security
25th Floor
312 Rosa L. Parks Ave., Nashville, TN 37243
p. 615-251-5173 c. 615-517-9096
tn.gov/safety
 
TWITTER,Follow THP:  @TNHighwayPatrol
 
TWITTER,Follow THP Colonel Tracy Trott:  @THP_Colonel
 

 

The Post & Email notes that in 2012, Tennessee Department of Safety staff attorney Lizabeth Hale granted us a waiver of the “citizen of this state” requirement as a member of the media.

The Tennessee Department of Safety is now called the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Hale has also served as assistant attorney general under Tennessee Attorney General Paul G. Summers prior to the appointment of Robert E. Cooper, Jr.

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  1. U. S. Constitution Article IV, Section 2. pp 1.:
    “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several states.”

    The TN “law” pertaining to citizens is archaic language in lots of southern state’s statutes that is in place to prevent “Negros” from, in this case, accessing records, and here in Georgia owning firearms, etc, etc, etc.

    In some cases the pols can spin it to suit their needs but in the case of firearms in Georgia it came back to bite them.