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Slow Start to State Highway Patrol Review

Posted November 20, 2007

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— Gov. Mike Easley ordered a review of the state Highway Patrol nearly two months ago, but a consultant has yet to be hired for the job.

The request followed an embarrassing series of incidents in which state troopers were fired for policy violations.

Over the past few months, the agency has fired one trooper who targeted young women for late-night traffic stops and another who abused a K-9 officer in a training exercise. A third trooper resigned after two women said he forced them to kiss him, and a fourth was dismissed for undisclosed reasons. A fifth was fired after being charged with driving while impaired.

While the agency initially said it wanted the review done as quickly as possible, there is perhaps nothing quick about such a process. There is a list of potential consultants, and WRAL was told a selection could come very soon.

“I can tell you we had more than one bid and less than 15,” Lt. Everett Clendenin, spokesman for the state Highway Patrol, said.

Consultants submitted request for the job from Oct. 25 and Nov. 9. The estimated time to conduct the review is still up in the air.

“We're not sure how long that will take. We do want it to be thorough and fair,” Clendenin said.

Despite the string of Highway Patrol officers being fired or disciplined for conduct-related issues, not everyone is sold on the solution to review the agency.

“Frankly, I'm not sure it's absolutely needed,” said state Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Hunt said he thinks state agencies are spending more time studying problems than solving them.

A consultant's report for the Department of Transportation recently cost $3.6 million. While no dollar amount is attached to the trooper review, Hunt said he was worried about the cost.

“It may be necessary to improve public perception, but I think the taxpayers might be happier not to spend the money,” Hunt said.

The attorney for the group that represents the troopers strongly disagreed. A Troopers Association spokesperson said the hiring and managing practices within the patrol need an outside look. Without it, the spokesperson said, the patrol won't see where it can improve.

The cost really comes down to the scope of the review. Some law enforcement consultant reports for other agencies have been done for less than $100,000.