ELIZABETHTON — Trooper Brad Proffitt of the Tennessee Highway Patrol will be suspended without pay for one day following an internal investigation of his conduct during an accident involving Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes during the early morning hours of July 5.
According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the suspension came for not keeping his dash-mounted video camera operating during his accident investigation. It was revealed the camera only documented 83 seconds of the scene and there was no audio.
As a result of Proffitt’s failure to properly record the events at the scene, Colonel Tracy Trott recommended a one-day suspension without pay for violation of General Order 712-1.
The general order requires “members shall utilize the MVS (mobile video system) to record investigations at crash scenes...and...leave the wireless microphone on during contact with subjects.”
In a press release announcing the suspension, Trott said “Trooper Proffitt used poor judgment in deactivating his patrol car video, and he is being disciplined for that violation...However, his decision to not issue a citation is not in question. Our state troopers investigate thousands of crashes statewide each year, and in many of those cases, citations are not issued. We stand by his decision.”
Proffitt, 36, began his career as a state trooper in 2002. He is the son of retired Trooper and former Mountain City Police Chief Jerry Proffitt. He was first assigned as a road trooper in Johnson County and later transferred to Carter County in December 2003.
Proffitt has the right to appeal the suspension decision.
The internal investigation was initiated on July 25. It was conducted by Capt. Danny Talley of the Fall Branch District and the Inspectional Services Bureau (formerly the Office of Professional responsibility).
Mathes said he and his department has cooperated fully with the investigation. He said he believed the investigation is centered around whether Proffitt was operating his cruiser-mounted video camera at the crash scene.
“It is my understanding that the camera only recorded about 80 seconds,” Mathes said.
“Several of my officers were on the scene, and I have made available all of those videotapes,” Mathes said.
At the time of the accident, Mathes said he had spent the evening answering calls about late night Fourth of July fireworks complaints. He said he noticed his gas gauge was pointing towards empty and was going to obtain fuel at the Carter County Highway Department of State Line Road.
Mathes said he dropped a set of keys to the pumps and reached down to pick them up as he was going northbound on U.S. Highway 321 (Broad Street). At that point his 2007 Honda CRV veered to the right and struck the ramp-like start of the guard rail over the Broad Street Bridge.
The accident caused the vehicle to ride up the ramp for several feet, then it reentered the road and overturned, coming to rest on its left side in the left turn lane.
Officers from the Carter County Sheriff’s Department and the Elizabethton Police Department responded to the scene, but the Tennessee Highway Patrol was requested to investigate the accident, as is usual in accidents involving local government vehicles.
The accident is reported to have occurred at 1:29 a.m. Proffitt was notified at 1:39 and reached the scene at 1:57.
Proffitt said in his report that he observed no presence of alcohol or drugs and no sobriety test was given and no drug test was given. Proffitt did not charge Mathes with any violation.
Mathes said he had been willing to take a test but was told it wasn’t necessary. He said he has several witnesses and the 911 tapes for that night corroborate his activities.