The Tennessean has found that a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation background check of state troopers’ criminal records released by Gov. Phil Bredesen last week missed some offenses. The TBI listed only a public intoxication charge for Trooper Martin Estel Brown, one of 58 employees found to have a criminal record or traffic offenses after a computer search on all 855 Tennessee Highway Patrol officers. But Brown also had a drug conviction as well as assault and shoplifting charges and other offenses in his past, according to the newspaper’s review of his personnel records.
A background investigator for the THP in fall 2003 said Brown’s past was checkered enough to recommend that his application to the Tennessee Highway Patrol be rejected. Instead, with the help of a recommendation from U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, Brown was hired Jan. 2, 2004, and is now patrolling the state’s highways in and around Cookeville. The TBI review, ordered by Bredesen, identified by name 41 of the THP employees with criminal charges or driver’s license problems, including Brown. Bredesen said the findings revealed a culture in which top Department of Safety officials turned a blind eye to such offenses, hiring some applicants because of connections more than qualifications. A previous, incomplete Tennessean review of those 41 employees’ personnel files found 13 other troopers and one THP dispatcher who had references from political patrons or made campaign contributions to politicians.