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Tennessee city disbands police department after illegal ticket quota program exposed


Secret recordings

The Washington Post/Contributor/Getty images

The city of Ridgetop, Tennessee, completely disbanded its police department Monday night after the police chief publicly complained that the city's mayor and vice mayor were forcing him to enforce an illegal ticket quota program.

What's the story?

It is illegal for police departments to have or enforce a ticket quota program in Tennessee. The controversy erupted earlier this year when Ridgetop Police Chief Bryan Morris secretly recorded a conversation with the mayor and city council in which the mayor apparently pressured Morris to write a certain number of traffic tickets in order to avoid cuts to his department.

Ridgetop Mayor Tony Reasoner denied that he imposed a quota, claiming (with Clintonian parsing) that Morris "wanted to hire another officer, and he was told that the pay for the officer would equal the revenues from about 210 tickets. We never said he had to write those tickets."

A special prosecutor who was appointed to investigate disagreed, finding that city officials definitely violated the law. However, the prosecutor declined to prosecute city officials because they did not obtain any personal gain from the program.

In a move that some Ridgetop residents say was motivated by revenge, city officials called a special meeting Monday night and disbanded the Ridgetop Police Department entirely. According to local Fox affiliate WZTV-TV, Morris was not allowed to speak at the meeting and was required to immediately turn in his badge, gun, and keys.

Reasoner, meanwhile, told the Tennessean that the move was not motivated by revenge but purely by budgetary concerns.

According to the Tennessean, Reasoner said, "It was all budget. We can't afford it. Hopefully, and I'm going to float this idea with the board, but I think we need a 4-5 member board of citizens to come up with ideas on our future."

What's next?

For now, Ridgetop's policing needs will be covered by the Robertson County, Tennessee, Sheriff's Office. According to WZTV, this is expected to delay response times for Ridgetop residents by up to 15 minutes and will place additional burdens on an already overburdened Robertson County Sheriff's Office.

Meanwhile, all five full-time members of the Ridgetop Police Department will lose their jobs. According to the Tennesean, they will be paid through the end of June.

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