Collegedale, TN — Most people reading this article know what it is like to have the blue and red lights pop up in your rear view mirror. The last thing going through your mind at this point is the feeling of 'being protected.' This feeling comes from the fact that the overwhelming majority of the time a driver sees police lights in their mirror is because they have been targeted for revenue collection—often the result of a quota system—and they are about to be given a ticket, or worse.
Police, we are told, are here to keep us safe and protect us from the bad guys. However, public safety all too often takes a back seat to revenue collection. Time and time again, the Free Thought Project has exposed quota schemes in which officers were punished for not writing enough tickets.
The most recent ticket writing scheme to be exposed comes of out Collegedale, Tennessee in which multiple police officers claim they were fired for attempting to call out the illegal orders handed down to them to make arrests and write tickets. Former Collegedale police officers Robert Bedell, Kolby Duckett, and David Schilling have all filed lawsuits against the city and its officials for wrongful termination after speaking out against what they refer to as an "illegal quota system."
Now, this month, the last officer left on the force finally resigned. On Friday, Ridgetop Police Chief Bryan Morris submitted his resignation and the town is now without a police force.
"Due to the allegations of a quota system being implemented by members of police department administration either written or unwritten, stated or implied, I feel it is necessary for a formal investigationto [sic] be conducted," read a statement from City Commissioner Ethan White in July when Bedell announced his lawsuit. "Today, I have reached out to District Attorney General Neal Pinkston requesting that he immediately request the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to conduct a full investigation into the Collegedale Police Department's operating policies."
In September, two more officers, Duckett and Schilling, came forward with the same allegations as Bedell. All three officers were fired without reason when they claimed to be exposing the illegal quota system.
Janie Parks Varnell, the attorney representing all three cops, argued the firings were "just another example of the City of Collegedale, Chief Brian Hickman and City Manager Ted Rogers terminating skilled officers simply because those officers brought attention to the illegal quota system implemented by the Department."
She added that "Tennessee law protects public employees who bring attention to the illegal activities of their employers. I will be filing suit against City Manager Ted Rogers, Chief Brian Hickman and the City of Collegedale for the illegal firing of these outstanding officers who were serving and protecting our community by speaking out against unlawful quotas."
According to Bedell, who was a Collegedale cop from January 2013 to January 2019, in December 2018, the department began directing officers to make a certain number of arrests and citations or face disciplinary actions. Each officer had to complete at least 25 enforcement actions and 100 patrol activities per month, according to the lawsuit.
Bedell's claim was backed up with photo evidence of a department flyer which had specific categories for officers to check off to show they had made their minimum number of arrests, citations, and patrols.
When Bedell confronted chief Hickman about the quota system, Hickman told him that he could "either resign from the Department or be terminated," according to the lawsuit. As the Times Free Press points out, Bedell asked if he'd done something wrong, but Hickman told Bedell he "could not discuss it," and since Tennessee is an at-will state, Hickman could terminate Bedell at any time, the lawsuit states.
Both Duckett and Schilling experienced similar firings and their claims are backed up by Morris.
Although the city disputes this claim by Morris, these cops took it upon themselves to secretly record the corruption. The recording, released back in January, does not lie.
Recommended for You
“I will make a proposal right now. I will give the two bottom guys a raise for the 12-month period and hire back the seventh officer if you write an average of 210 tickets a month. I will do that, but I better see 210 tickets a month," said Vice Mayor McCaw Johnson.
This move to get rid of the police department is unlike other moves we've seen where the officers are corrupt and therefore all fired. This time, the example shows what happens in towns across the country who are strapped for revenue.
City officials want more money to justify their bureaucratic budgets so they lean on cops to extort the citizens through traffic fines. We have seen this play out time and again.
These local governments have long advocated for police departments to prey on poor people to finance themselves. However, this time, it appeared that this department didn't want to do that—so they were fired and now the chief has quit.
“Law enforcement is not about tickets. It’s about trying to cut down on crime. That is a local government taking advantage of its people. That’s not what we are here for,” said officer Shawn Taylor, who conducted the secret recording of officials demanding a quota.
"For a city this size and the budget we have, the tickets we are writing is out of hand,” former chief Morris said.
Indeed it was. Showing just how out of hand it was are some local stats from a study done by FOX17, who looked at ticket revenue in other towns.
Carthage wrote $13,000 in citations. Monterey, $28,000. Woodbury, $49,000. Waynesboro, $ 55,000 Adamsville, $93,000. And then you have Ridgetop $258,000.
When the police department realized the city officials only wanted them for revenue collection, the controversy began—and now we are seeing where it ends.
The city is now searching for a replacement for their police chief as the Robertson County Sheriff's Department takes over their slack.
Mandating that officers issue citations and make arrests is nothing close to "protecting and serving." In fact, it's quite the opposite.
Requiring a minimum number of citations forces conflict and potentially hostile interactions in situations where their would otherwise be no conflict.
It truly forces police officers to create criminals out of innocent people in order to generate revenue, or they face losing their jobs.
Sadly Collegedale, Tenn. is not some isolated incident. For years, TFTP has reported on these quota systems from coast to coast. As we just reported in June, the town of Ridgetop, Tenn. fired its entire police department after they refused to enforce an illegal quota scheme to line the pockets of city officials. If you truly want a glimpse into the mandated revenue collection schemes across the country and the penalties cops face for exposing them, take a look through our archives, here.