Knox County Commission candidate R. Larry Smith is defending his display of a badge during a traffic stop in North Knox County late in 2017.
Bodycam video of the traffic stop showed a Knox County deputy approaching Smith’s truck on Dec. 30. Smith’s truck is covered with decals advertising his candidacy for the at-large commission seat 11.
The deputy informed Smith that he was pulled over for speeding at 60 miles-per-hour on East Emory Road.
The deputy asked Smith for his driver’s license and as Smith opened his wallet, a badge was visible. At that point, the deputy said, “It’s all right,” and apologized.
On the video, Smith said, “Don’t apologize.” The deputy, who identified himself as Farmer, said on the video that he was “just trying to do the right thing” and “I know there’s people that seen us coming through there.” The Knox County’s Sheriff’s Office identified the officer as Dustin Farmer.
Smith told 10News on Friday the badge reads “Deputy Sheriff – Knox County Sheriff” and that it was given to him when his handgun carry permit was issued in 2014. He said there are many such badges, but those badges do not have a badge number.
Smith said that he didn’t do anything wrong, that he did not ask to avoid a citation, and that it was the deputy’s decision to not issue a ticket. “I was calm, he was cordial,” Smith said.
The sheriff’s office responded Friday to questions about the traffic stop.
“R. Larry Smith does have an active special deputy card that allows him to carry a weapon. He was issued the card when he was a Knox County Commissioner and has renewed it ever since then,” said Martha Dooley, Director of Media Relations.
“It’s up to the officer’s discretion in most incidents whether a warning or a ticket will be issued. Officer Farmer stated he had been warning drivers on Emory Road and intended to do the same when he stopped Smith,” Dooley said.
Smith said he believed the sharing of the video in some City-County Building circles was politically motivated. “I’ve got nothing to hide,” Smith said.
Justin Biggs is Smith’s Republican opponent in the at-large commission race. The winner of this year’s primary would face Democrat Vivian Underwood-Shipe.
Smith previously represented the 7th district on the commission.