Tennessee Highway Patrol increases presence in Memphis area

Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 6:23 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Judging by all the blue lights across town in the last week, the cavalry has finally arrived in the Bluff City.

On Monday, Tennessee’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security said 66 Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers were serving the Memphis District.  Many were from other districts, in town to help with the saturation.

THP’s District 4 covers multiple counties in the Memphis metropolitan area, and although it’s unclear how many of the 66 who have joined are actually stationed in the city itself, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said that he’s happy to have our roads a little safer.

”I’m thrilled! I texted the Governor and thanked him for the increased presence here. People are starting to notice. I know some people have gotten tickets,” he said. “I’d like to see the troopers on the interstates because we have so many challenges there, but I’ll take them wherever they’ll be.”

Strickland and the city council asked the state for more THP manpower more than two years ago after a surge in interstate shootings.

In 2022, there were 15 interstate shootings in total, according to MPD. So far in 2023, that number is 23.

Since then, the need for more officers to bolster the Memphis Police Department’s crime-fighting efforts became even greater.

To add to the struggle, THP told leaders six months ago they were having trouble getting troopers to join the department, period.

But in September, Governor Lee promised help was on the way, and Tennessee started an aggressive recruitment campaign to hire new troopers and entice troopers from other states to come to work for the Volunteer State.

THP tells Action News 5 that 240 troopers have graduated from their cadet academy in the past year.

The trooper pay scale also increased by 4% on July 1, 2022, according to the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

The Governor requested another 100 new trooper positions in his next budget for 2023-24. He also proposed raising starting pay for troopers from $39,473 to $63,000.

The department also requested $600,000 for an incentive program that would pay troopers or supervisors assigned to traffic enforcement in Shelby County a $10,000 bonus per year.

Lt. Devonte Quinn is permanently assigned to the Memphis District. He joined the Tennessee Highway Patrol during the pandemic.

“We’re looking for speeders, anybody who is zooming in and out of traffic,” Lt. Quinn told Action News 5 during a ride-along. “We’re trying to slow it down and get drivers to slow it down.”

Originally on track to become an occupational therapist, Quinn said he switched his career to law enforcement and hasn’t looked back.

”It’s an honor to do this job,” said Lt. Quinn, “and a calling. It’s an honor to make citizens feel safe on highways and interstates. Everyone should get in their vehicle and feel safe.”

Shelby Countians are definitely noticing.

“Tickets are being written like crazy,” one Nextdoor post started off, followed by multiple enthusiastic replies like: “excellent work,” “great job” and “wonderful.”

Another poster added, “Had to go to Lowe’s on Summer and counted nine troopers and I couldn’t be more pleased.”

While the city only asked THP to help patrol I-40 and I-240, you will also see troopers on city and county streets that are also state routes, including: Summer, Union, Poplar, Germantown Parkway, Jackson, Lamar and Walnut Grove.

”Yes! Saw a trooper writing a ticket on Walnut Grove. Finally, something positive in Cordova,” wrote another Nextdoor poster.

“I feel like the drag racing has gotten a little quieter lately,” said another. “Love seeing these officers on the roads!”

Lt. Quinn quickly realized just how much the extra enforcement is welcome.

“Just to see the smiles on some of the citizens’ faces,” he said, “They come up and talk to us when they see us out in public. Just to see the smiles, and the gratitude and the thanks and the appreciation. It makes us feel like we’re doing a good job.”

In December, 11 troopers were stationed in Shelby County.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland told Action News 5 on Thursday, March 23, the goal is to have at least 20 troopers assigned to Memphis and Shelby County. But beefing up the ranks, he said, all depends on the state’s ability to quickly recruit and train new hires.

If you’re interested in a career as a state trooper in Tennessee, click here to start your journey.

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