Safety and Security Controversy of 1974–1976

In August 1974 Tony Martin, an employee of the UT Safety and Security force (now UT Police) who was resigning to become the chief of police in Dandridge, wrote a 21-page letter detailing charges of wrongdoing among officers in the Safety and Security Department. In November the General Counsel’s Office began an investigation of the allegations. The investigation lasted two weeks and resulted in the firing of one detective (A. D. Earl) for allegedly stealing a case of toilet paper and the demotion of three employees for allegedly looking at confidential pay scales.

Following the investigation, a three-person hearing board was established, consisting of Carl Pierce, assistant dean of law; Ben Granger, dean of the Graduate School of Social Work; and James McAuliffe, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs. Sgt. Jack Thacker, who had been demoted to patrolman, along with Lee Stanton and James Mills, for allegedly looking at confidential pay scales, began going through the grievance procedure on January 23, 1975. The fourth step in the process involved a review of the grievance by the chancellor. On April 1 Chancellor Jack Reese ruled in favor of Thacker and ordered all three officers reinstated to their previous ranks.

As this process was ongoing, a former Safety and Security patrolman, Frank Wyrick, wrote to Governor Blanton on January 8, 1975, alleging theft, unauthorized use of university property, misconduct, discrimination, and lack of leadership and requesting a legislative review of the allegations. The State responded by initiating an investigation by the State Controller’s Office. After completing the investigation, the office issued its report, which essentially said that there was no evidence of additional wrongdoing other than the instances that had been identified and handled by the university. The report recommended that the department achieve greater efficiency, improve supervision, and develop more clearly defined policies and procedures.

Chancellor Reese appointed Stanford Bohne, vice chancellor for business and finance, who had been given direct administrative responsibility for Safety and Security, to chair a committee to undertake these improvements. Shortly after this committee was formed, Mike Ellis, attorney for the Knoxville American Civil Liberties Union, charged that files containing information of noncriminal activity by UT students were kept through January 1975 and might still exist. Eventually Bohne’s committee studying policies and procedures of Safety and Security added an investigation into the making and keeping of records of noncriminal behavior to their charge. The committee brought its investigative hearings to a close in July 1975 but did not release its report until February 1976. That report confirmed that files had been kept on noncriminal behavior of students from the 1960s and had been destroyed as ordered during the course of the committee’s work. As a result of the work of the committee, the Safety and Security Department was reorganized and some 13 employees were relocated to other UT units.

In 1981 the issue of “bugging devices” came to light with the revelation that UT Police Captain James McDonald had four listening devices made on campus in the 1970s for use by Safety and Security. He gave one to Chief Hugh Griffin, one to Assistant Chief Ed Yovella, and kept two. UT police officers wrote a letter to then-Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance Homer Fisher in August 1981 expressing concern that the squad room in the Safety and Security Department might be “bugged.” Fisher reported that there was no evidence of such devices being used in the squad room or elsewhere on campus.

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  • Title Safety and Security Controversy of 1974–1976
  • Author
  • Keywords Safety and Security Controversy of 1974–1976
  • Website Name Volopedia
  • Publisher University of Tennessee Libraries
  • URL
  • Access Date October 25, 2021
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update October 16, 2018