Local News

State Troopers' Conduct Raises Concerns

Posted September 6, 2007
Updated September 7, 2007

— Recent allegations of state trooper misconduct is raising concerns about how the Highway Patrol manages its members.

Earlier this week, a Burlington attorney claimed that former Trooper Michael A. Steele, 28, stopped a Hispanic couple in Carrboro late last month and told the husband he would face immigration violations if he did not leave his wife behind and drive away from the stop.

Rossi alleged Steele then "made" the woman get into his patrol car "against her will," drove to a secluded area and then "forced her" to kiss him.

A second woman, also Hispanic, retained Rossi Wednesday evening, he said, after leveling similar accusations against Steele regarding an incident that apparently occurred earlier in August.

Orange County District Attorney James Woodall said the State Bureau of Investigation is looking into both allegations to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.

Steele, a trooper since April 2004, patrolled in Orange County from the Hillsborough substation. He is the third trooper in recent weeks to come under scrutiny for allegations of on-the-job misconduct.

Last week, the Highway Patrol fired Trooper Scott Harrison, 31, who is accused of profiling young women at night during traffic stops in his Wake County patrol area. Harrison, who said he will appeal the dismissal, has adamantly denied the allegations against him, saying he believe he was fair in his arrests.

Sgt. Charles L. Jones, 38, was placed on leave after internal affairs investigators at the Highway Patrol opened an investigation against him for alleged mistreatment of his police dog. The SBI is also investigating that matter.

"It certainly begs the question: 'What (is the Highway Patrol) doing to police themselves?'" said attorney Leonor Childers, who has represented Hispanic clients claiming they were illegally targeted by a Durham trooper several years ago.

Childers said she believes the recent cases of misconduct are cause for alarm and that pre-employment screening, training and supervision would helped the patrol maintain its high standards.

"These are folks that are supposed to be protecting our welfare, yet they're violating individual rights and committing crimes themselves," Childers said.

"At some point, they're going to have to start showing the public that they're serious about supervising and policing their own employees. If not, they're going to lose the trust of the public."

Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Everett Clendenin said Thursday there are 1,820 sworn troopers who wrote more than 1 million traffic citations last year. The patrol received 165 complaints of misconduct. Eighty-seven of those resulted in disciplinary actions ranging from reprimand to termination, he said.

In 2006, there were 175 reports of misconduct; 112 resulted in discipline.

Clendenin said each recent incident is separate from the others and that patrol officials have handled each case with serious and decisive action.

In the case of Steele, for example, Clendenin said Rossi contacted the agency on Aug. 27 with general information about an allegation of serious misconduct.

Within 48 hours, officials were able to link the allegations to Steele and began an internal investigation into what they believed was one incident. Steele was interviewed and put on investigative leave, Clendenin said. He quit Sept. 2 in lieu of being fired.

"We have a high standard of conduct that we expect of our troopers," he said. "When they sway off of that, we take quick action. It's not something we're going to tolerate."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • sjmr1216 Sep 8, 2007

    Wait a minute..."Speeding is the leading cause of death?" I speed everyday and I've never died...at least I don't think I have...

  • TheDecider Sep 8, 2007

    That is a very weak analogy.

    I've had bad days at work, but I didn't take an oath to serve and protect the public, and I'm not carrying a gun and badge around. And I never take out my frustrations by abusing women or dogs. Or lie to a judge.

    So now Trooper Jones is being dismissed and criminally investigated for felony animal abuse by the Wake County D.A., and 2 others are being investigated for not reporting (aka covering up) the k9 abuse incident. I wouldn't call it a fluke, I'd call it a trend....

    The really disgusting part is that we are all paying these predators with our tax dollars, and I'm sure they aren't the last we'll hear about.

  • peplquitwhinin Sep 8, 2007

    You can't judge an agency on the allegations or actions of one or two people. So there have been a couple of problems over the last few months, how about over the last ten years? For an agency that employes almost two thousand people, that is not much. They take care of their house it seems. Everybody is up at arms about the three situations recently, but how about the 99.6% without complaints. They have a job to do just like the rest of us. Are they always very nice adn pleasant? Well I have always found them to be. Do they have bad days just like the rest of us? Of course. Can any of us anywhere honestly say that we have NEVER had a bad day which affected our attitude at work? I can't! How would you enjoy a job when every person you meet in the course of your day hated to see you. Kind of like being a tax collector or IRS auditor I would guess.

  • COPs eye Sep 8, 2007

    Once again there are prople jumping to conclusions about a Law Enforcement Agency...SAD. The real problem in America is the media. They never wait to find out the distposition of anything before it is aired. Trooper Steele resigned and if necessary he will face charges. There are jerks in every agency and there are good people. People always make the mistake of generalizing. I have worked with several Troopers and have been fortunate to learn from them and see the professionalism they have. However there are the others that are a disgrace to our profession and they are delt with in and out of the medias's pen.

  • weasleyes Sep 7, 2007


    If your family is breaking the law they deserve a ticket just like everyone else. Speeeding is the leading cause of death in North Carolina."

    I absolutely agree! We do not speed, and I see idiots every day who do speed, way above the limit. As I said, I personally know NCHP troopers, and they are good guys. I have the card of one of them in my wallet. However, the "one bad apple," who is now in a position of power, over the good troopers, should not be allowed to target my family, or any other, because we complained over 10 years ago. I have taken the Defensive Driving Course over 15 times, and my company mandated seat-belt usage since the mid-'60's. I have never commited a crime, and I have had one traffic ticket in 50 years of driving. Why should that "bad apple" be allowed to target me or my family? My thanks to the great majority of good NCHP troopers everywhere!

  • mylilchev350 Sep 7, 2007

    I am getting tired that some of you are bashing the NCSHP, The ones who are, are law breakers anyway. Decent people know what to think begin with. Yes, bad apples tend to pop up in the work place. Get rid of them and keep on going. NCSHP has been through some rough times and will survive. Troopers are taught how to overcome these situations. They will remain to be #1 in my book.

  • RAINDOG Sep 7, 2007

    I dont like the new cars that troopers are driving. They look too "NASCARest". Thats all. Still respect all troopers. One of the toughest jobs in this day.

  • ASU Sep 7, 2007


    The news and observer reported a couple of months ago about speeding in NC. The said the average speeding ticket was written for 15 mph over the speed limit. That tells me that most troopers aren't just out there giving speed tickets to people going 5 or 10 miles over the speed limit. You have to draw the line somewhere. If you are going 15 mph over the speed limit you neeed a ticket. State Troopers aren't just out there writing speeding tickets for 5 or 10 miles over the speed limit according to the Office of Administrative courts. If you go ito VA and go 5 mph you will get a speeding ticket. Guess what they don't have as many vehicle deaths as NC. Maybe if the Judges and DA's would do their job then we wouldn't have as many deaths. How can someone with 28 speeding tickets still have a license thats according to the News and Observer.

  • Love my boys Sep 7, 2007

    As I said before, one day you are going to need a State Trooper for help. Remember that. Will you be so negative and refuse their help? Just because some of them made bad choices? Be glad that the ones doing wrong have been caught and are no longer on the roads to hurt anyone else. At the same time, be thankful that this state has Troopers to patrol the roads and keep them safe.

  • knelsud92 Sep 7, 2007

    I'm sure the majority of the NCSHP officers are decent, however, I think some of them are on ridiculous power trips.

    For example, I'm driving back to Charlotte from the State game on Saturday night. I'm doing about 70-75 in the left lane (speed limit 70). All of a sudden, two headlights approach from behind at a high rate of speed. Before I even have a change to look in the mirror and see if it's safe to get over, I'm basically forced to gun it. By the time, I move over, I'm at 95. I immediately let off the gas, look over and it's a trooper. I glare at him as I slow down and he slows down. Then, luckily for me, he SPEEDS off.

    If he pulled me, I would have been in the Guilford County Jail.

    Is it really SAFE to bait people into going nearly 100 MPH because they want to fly down the highway?

    If a cop needs to get somewhere, why not just use the overhead blue lights, instead of maybe causing a major wreck?