Taxi licensing commission asks for clarity on inspectors' role following police reprimand

Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 7:07pm

Metro attorneys are to review city ordinances and advise what taxi inspectors can and cannot do following a scathing letter from the police chief after discovering they had been posing as police officers.

The Transportation Licensing Commission, the Metro body that regulates Davidson County’s taxis, limousines and wreckers, held a regularly scheduled meeting Thursday, voting to ask Metro attorneys to clarify cab inspectors’ authority. A report from the legal department is expected before the commission’s May meeting.

The commission's vote came six days after police Chief Steve Anderson fired off an April 20 letter that reprimanded Brian McQuistion, director of the commission, for inspectors possessing police badges, carrying firearms and utilizing blue lights on their vehicles.

“Violations of law, multiple misrepresentations, an apparent lack of accountability and a general propensity to act in a non-responsible manner,” Anderson wrote McQuistion, “have affected the credibility of your agency to the degree that it is necessary to institute measures that will ensure that no members of the Metro Nashville Police Department participate in any enforcement or inspection activities initiated by your agency or in collaboration of your agency.”

The commission’s chair Helen Rogers said, “Our goal has always been and is public safety.” 

Rogers added, “Our job as a commission, in light of the letter of the chief of police is really — who will be able to enforce the ordinances that we are charged with dealing with, and how we will be able to regulate in the future."

Mayor Karl Dean told WKRN-TV earlier this week, “I look at this as a police matter and the chief is dealing with it." Rogers said she agreed with the mayor's statements. 

Both McQuistion and Rogers declined to comment following the commission’s meeting.

Three inspectors work for McQuistion’s transportation licensing department.

The police department, according to Anderson’s letter, confiscated a total of 10 badges from cab inspectors. Some badges were inscribed with the words, “Nashville Police” or “Metropolitan police.” Metro police collected three badges that inspectors had cut into pieces.

Huffington Post first reported on the licensing commission’s use of police badges in an April 6 story in which McQuistion said the practice within his department goes back 35 years. McQuistion has served as transportation licensing director for eight years.

“They were given to the department’s inspectors decades ago for use by the police — I guess they were given [by] police commissions. We didn’t know we weren’t supposed to be using them anymore, so [when the police asked for them,] we turned them in,” said McQuistion, according to the Huffington Post article.

Anderson learned taxi inspectors possessed badges, carried firearms and utilized blue lights on April 3, his letter states, three days before the Huffington Post story published.

Observing Thursday’s meeting were police spokesman Don Aaron, Metro Councilwoman Davette Blalock and Billy Fields, a former transportation licensing director who serves as director of the mayor’s office of neighborhoods.

The meeting also drew dozens of spectators from the cab and related industries, many who said the findings in Anderson’s letter match what they’ve observed.

“For the past eight years, I had thought they were police officers,” said Johnny Smith, who operates a horse carriage business with his wife Brenda. “That’s what their badges said. They carried guns. They had blue lights.

“They’ve been using this selectively to run companies out that they didn’t deem was in their loop,” he said. “It’s selective enforcement.”

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5 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 4/27/12 at 8:36

Mayor taking a hide the blame stating "it's a police matter!" It is also a very
serious management problem as well. The Board may or may not have
known these Inspectors were impersonating Police Officers, but the
Director surely did, and should be held accountable by this Mayor and
his appointed board! Many individuals have been "criminally charged"
for only having a single blue light in their car, these overbearing "wanna-a-be's"
went far beyond that with their lights, fake badges and actions and words!

By: Left-of-Local on 4/27/12 at 9:49

Awww.... poor widdle piggies. Someone else coming along comparing penises with you? Gee that must suck.

By: nashmusic2244 on 4/27/12 at 10:21

hey Brian:
Simple, you and your staff of gestapo like inspectors ARE NOT POLICE OFFICERS!!!

By: yucchhii on 4/27/12 at 3:25

yucchhii ALL the cab companies need to be broke down and RESTRUCTURED!! They all need to be retaught to drive!! To many time I have seen cab drivers driving carelessly and don't care about others because of that $$$. I'm telling those who are in chrge of the drivers of whatever companies......THEY "DON'T" WANT TO HIT ME!" I will not only sue, but I will make sure your company shuts down!!! Don't believe it? All I can say is "TRY ME!"

By: Ask01 on 4/29/12 at 9:54

Did I understand correctly?

This practice has gone on for at least 35 years? Presumably untrained, non law enforcement personnel have carried badges, weapons, and employed blue lights within the city and no one has been concerned until now?

Even if real law enforcement was oblivious, did someone within the licensing commission not, in all those years, question by what authority and city ordinance inspectors were conducting themselves?

This is a pime example, I believe, of what happens when government becomes bloated and too large to police itself.

In a small operation, every section of every department is more viible and accountable, making such an instance less likely.

In a large, sprawling governmental entity, the opportunity is present for small groups to act almost autonomously and with little oversight because no one is quite sure who is responsible and, as long as no one makes waves, often no one cares.

On the upside though, there has to be a country song in there somewhere about the evils of "the big city."