Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Make it public, says Odom

House Majority Leader Gary Odom (D-Nashville) is calling for the names of those who were the subject of background checks said to be run by Lt. Ronnie Shirley of the Tennessee Highway Patrol to be released.

Odom said the list could contain "as many as 300 names," according to multiple sources he has spoken with. He would not disclose the sources. "I think once we know the names, then we will have a better understanding of the motives for these activities, and then we will know what needs to take place next," said Odom, D-Nashville. "We need to know if these were private citizens, politically active individuals or just acquaintances of the officer."

The THP is conducting an investigation and says that the results will be handed over to the District Attorney when completed.

In unusually informal, frank, and editorializing language, the Tennessean describes the THP's past "disciplining" of Lt. Shirley when he assisted then Deputy Governor Dave Cooley with a ticket:

A resulting investigation ended in reprimands for Cooley and Shirley. Shirley was then transferred to an assignment closer to his home in Wilson County. The transfer was part of a ruse by the THP's top brass at the time, as it tried to fake a punishment for Shirley to throw off the press and the public, The Tennessean later reported.

Internal notes obtained by the newspaper said the idea was to reassign Shirley from Rutherford County to Wilson County so that, according to the notes, "the media will be satisfied thinking we did something to him." The reassignment would actually only be "on paper."

It is seldom that one sees "fake" as a verb, "ruse," and "top brass" used in the body of a story. Still, given the clear contempt for the media, the public, and the discipline process referenced in the memo, perhaps the shift in language is justified. It just might have worked better in the "Voices and Views" segment than in the text of the story.

And given the issues and the perception of issues in the department's past, a little sunlight on the background checks in question is justified. As Rep. Odom points out, "I sincerely hope these checks haven't been used for political or personal vendettas. If they were, we could be talking about official misconduct here."

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