Patrol using training, software to head off problems
Posted November 2, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — In an effort to clean up its ranks after a number of state troopers were charged with misconduct, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol has turned to statistical software analysis, extra training and new policies, officials said Tuesday.
A six-person panel appointed by Gov. Beverly Perdue last year recommended changes to the beleaguered patrol, including increased supervision of troopers statewide, more ethics training and policy changes to more closely monitor trooper conduct.
The Highway Patrol has been plagued in recent years by a number of cases involving state troopers who have resigned, been fired or been disciplined for inappropriate or questionable conduct, including profiling, drunken driving, animal abuse, sex on duty and inappropriate text messages.
"In tough times, there are opportunities for improvement. There are opportunities to do things," said Col. Michael Gilchrist, who took over as commander of the Highway Patrol shortly after the blue-ribbon panel made its recommendations to Perdue.
In the 14 months since then, the patrol has sent more than 400 supervisors through a 36-hour ethics training course based on curriculum developed by the FBI, officials said. The patrol also is creating a Center for Leadership Development to identify and nurture troopers and managers who have innovative leadership skills.
The patrol's Internal Affairs Division is using statistical software developed by Cary-based SAS Inc. to analyze data and identify trends so issues can be addressed before it gets to the level of pursuing criminal charges against a trooper, officials said. The software also allows for managers to look at complaints or violations at the troop level.
"We can look at patrol car crashes. We can look at performance appraisals," Gilchrist said. "All of this information is tied into one system."
Having more than 1,800 people spread throughout all 100 North Carolina counties has made compiling such data difficult, he said.
Gilchrist said he believes the changes will improve the patrol's ethical conduct and image.
"There's a lot of things I'm proud of, but I'm certainly not going to sit here and say, 'We're good, and now it's time to coast,'" he said. "While you can't guarantee that you won't have employee failure, you can certainly put things in place to minimize that."