District Attorney Neal Pinkston Closes File On Collegedale Quota Investigation

Friday, January 24, 2020

District Attorney Neal Pinkston has told the TBI to close its investigation of an alleged quota arrest system at the Collegedale Police Department. He said new "performance standards" adopted by the department could be construed as quotas, but he said the system was withdrawn when questions were raised about it.

Three former Collegedale Police officers filed a $2 million federal lawsuit, saying they were fired after raising issues about the alleged quota system.

Collegedale City Attorney Sam Elliott said after the letter was issued, "The city of Collegedale is proud of its police department, which a recent University of Tennessee Management review 'concluded 'is well equipped and well trained' and 'provides a high level of service to the citizens of Collegedale.' Our officers are justly proud of that report’s conclusions.  

"To the extent the claims of an alleged quota affected public trust, the city hopes that the favorable findings by the TBI and District Attorney General Pinkston will do much to restore that trust."

Attorney Janie Varnell, who filed the federal suit, said, “As has been clear to us from the beginning, the Department implemented a quota system in December 2018.  Thanks to the swift actions of those officers who voiced their concerns over the legality of the quota, the Department realized that their actions were in violation of the law and were left with no choice but to cease these practices. Because of these officers, the illegal quota system was not in place for long.  Unfortunately, the price of doing the right thing was their employment. District Attorney Neal Pinkston recognized this quota and we will ensure that the Officers who were unfairly terminated by the city of Collegedale for speaking out receive the justice demanded by Collegedale’s illegal actions.”

DA Pinkston wrote this letter to the TBI

Agent Mark Wilson

TBI

Agent Wilson, 

I have reviewed the TBI investigation of the Collegedale Police Department as well as relevant case and statutory law. My opinion is based only upon the documents which have been provided to me. It appears in 2018 the Collegedale Police Department attempted to adopt performance guidelines based upon numbers of arrests, number of citations issued, and other patrol activities for their police department and officers. These guidelines were adopted by the department and were to be applied to each individual officer beginning in late 2018 or early 2019.

Although these were described as performance standards, they can easily be construed to be quotas. Tennessee Code Annonated 39-16-516b states:

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 of any type of combination of types of traffic citations within a specific period.

It appears from the investigation certain officers thought they were bound by these guidelines and in turn voiced complaints to the Collegedale Police Department command staff. After some intra-department discussion, Collegedale Police Chief Brian Hickman told the department the adopted performance standards were no longer in effect. When requested for his legal opinion, the Collegedale city attorney told the department to cease and desist this practice. Per the TBI investigation, the numbers of arrests and citations issued would not have been the only standards by which the department's officers would have been evaluated.

In summary, the Collegedale Police Department attempted to develop some updated performance standards. Tennessee law does not allow development of quotas in law enforcement. Because these poorly drafted performance standards were discontinued as soon as they were brought to attention by Chief Hickman and the city attorney, and it's questionable how long they have been in effect, I will request the TBI close their investigative file with no further action.

Neal Pinkston

District Attorney


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