Raleigh, N.C. — Several high-ranking State Highway Patrol members lived up to 187 miles from where they worked last year, in violation of agency policy, according to a state audit released Monday.
The Highway Patrol requires troopers to live within 20 miles of the county line where they are assigned to work, but state auditors found that policy is rarely enforced. Because troopers have to commute long distances, it adds to state fuel and maintenance costs for patrol vehicles and likely hinders response times, the audit states.
The State Auditor's Office investigated a tip about violations of the residency policy and found eight troopers, including a major, two captains and three lieutenants, all lived at least 68 miles from their duty stations. One captain lived in Morganton and commuted 187 miles to his work in Wake County, according to the audit.
All of the troopers initially denied commuting long distances, telling auditors that they maintained second residences near their duty stations. But reviews of fuel logs showed most of the patrol cars were gassed up near the troopers' primary residences during the week or on weekends, according to the audit.
"By not following the residency policy, troopers unnecessarily increased commuting miles on their State Highway Patrol vehicles. The increased commuting mileage ultimately resulted in higher fuel and maintenance costs and may have reduced the useful lives of their respective vehicles," the audit states. "Certain troopers, for example, first sergeants, may have jeopardized response time to critical calls at their respective duty stations by failing to comply with the residency policy."
Auditors criticized Highway Patrol management for not enforcing the policy.
"By not enforcing the residency policy, management created an environment where subordinate troopers were able to rationalize noncompliance or completely disregard the policy," the audit states.
Secretary of Public Safety Erik Hooks said all eight of the troopers have been brought into compliance with the residency policy and that the policy was reworked in March to focus more on response times than distance from one's duty station. All troopers are aware of the revamped policy, and patrol commanders know that they must strictly enforce it, Hooks said.