Replacements named for four demoted THP captains

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Highway Patrol announced replacements Thursday for four captains demoted in a housecleaning move earlier this week.

The new captains are for the Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Fall Branch districts. The Highway Patrol has eight patrol districts, and captains are the highest-ranking, day-to-day managers.

"This is another important step in moving forward with management changes within the Tennessee Highway Patrol," Safety Commissioner Jerry Nicely said in a news release.

The moves follow the resignation of the department's top three officials in December, following media reports about troopers with criminal backgrounds, allegations of ticket-fixing, and a culture of cronyism and political arm-twisting.

Nicely named Col. Mike Walker commander of the 855-officer patrol in March.

"After careful consideration, Col. Walker and I have chosen four qualified individuals to lead these districts, including the first female captain in THP history," Nicely said.

An analysis by New York-based security consultant Kroll Inc. found that personnel matters at the Highway Patrol were "rife with political favoritism at the expense of competence."

The four new captains are Cheryl Sanders in the 12-county Chattanooga district; Raymond Fletcher in the 11-county Knoxville district; Thomas Smith in the 11-county Memphis district; and Richard Dean Hurley for the 13-county Fall Branch district.

Fall Branch is in upper East Tennessee near Kingsport. Fletcher, Smith and Hurley are 29-year veterans of the Highway Patrol while Sanders has been with the agency for 23 years.

Three of the new captains' predecessors - Glenn Cantwell, Lucious Howard, Charles Laxton - accepted lower paying jobs as lieutenants. The fourth, Joe Nunn, was considering retirement after more than 30 years of service, Walker said.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)