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Lawmaker Questions Highway Patrol's Actions

Posted January 30, 2008

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— The state Highway Patrol is again facing questions about one of its members' judgment.

Over the weekend, a trooper chose not to issue a speeding ticket to a fellow law enforcement officer, an off-duty Durham policeman. After a review, the patrol has found that the off-duty officer was going nearly twice the posted speed limit.

A ticket was issued Tuesday night. Wednesday, though, at least one lawmaker was questioning the agency's actions.

Trooper David Smith clocked off-duty Durham police officer Anthony Harris going 84 mph in a 45 mph zone at about 7 p.m. Saturday on Junction Road near Club Boulevard. Smith stopped Harris but did not write a ticket.

Smith also decided that while he could smell alcohol on Harris' breath, Harris had passed field-sobriety tests and was not impaired, officials have said.

Former police officer Jon Blum told WRAL that it is not unusual to see that sort of conduct.

“I think it's common practice that officers use discretion anytime they stop someone in a car, including another law enforcement officer,” Blum said.

It wasn't until the news media questioned the Highway Patrol that Harris got a ticket.

The decision followed a string of high-profile incidents involving state troopers.

Several troopers quit or were fired over allegations ranging from driving while impaired to accusations of harassing women.

“What I think we have to demand from our troopers is the highest professional conduct,” Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, said Wednesday.

Kinnaird sits on the legislative committee that provides money for the Highway Patrol. She said there will be plenty of scrutiny when it comes to funding the agency.

When “you come to us asking for more money, we [are gong to] wanna know, have you cleaned up your act?” she said.

“I believe they've been supportive in the past, and when we are able to answer their questions, they'll continue to be supportive of the Highway Patrol,” said Bryan Beatty, secretary of the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.

Beatty said he is not so much worried about funding as he is public perception.

“No one has said a trooper has gotten away with misbehavior, only that a trooper on the rare occasion has committed an act that's embarrassing and inappropriate,” Beatty said.

Beatty insisted that 99 percent of troopers do what is expected of them.

The Highway Patrol is reviewing Smith's actions with regards to not immediately ticketing Harris.

44 Comments

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  • Marc3939 Jan 31, 2008

    "We look after our own because the public won't" - leo-nc

    Could you give us some examples. Please tell us how "you look after your own" and what the "public" did or didn't do to justify it.

    I've already heard more than one LEO say he's giving no warnings anymore and EVERYONE he pulls gets a ticket. His idea of the "public" is based on a few comments on this board. What is your concept of the "public"?

  • Polly Jan 31, 2008

    Thanks HollywoodBruce. Sometimes folks on these boards get all "balled up" about idiocy and start "fights" for their own enjoyment. I'm actually a lawyer which is often a curse word on these boards and life in general (not made easier by the slimy advertisers and letter writers-a group I will never be in). I'm not in a position to pass judgment on lawyers or cops who make judgment calls. Perhaps some of the the folks who have grandiose ideas should take a walk in our world...

  • think1st Jan 31, 2008

    Was the trooper right or wrong? If we all agreed, this forum would not exist. But remember, that trooper stands ready to do battle on your behalf. Ask yourself, what have I done for a stranger today? Just think, when you lay your head on that pillow tonight, there's a North Carolina Highway Patrolman standing at a strangers window on the interstate wondering, "is this guy going to shoot me? or "will the next car run off the road and kill us all. Yes, he gets paid for it. Yes, he signed up for it. NOW DON'T YOU EVER FORGET IT!

  • leo-nc Jan 31, 2008

    There has been discretion given to citizens for the same amount over the speed limit plenty of times. You may not like it but this is a fact: The person you stop and give a ticket to may be the backup you call the next day. That backup might be getting to you a little slow the next time. Don't like it? Well, can't help ya there. That's the way it is all over the country and it's never going to change, just like death and taxes. We look after our own because the public won't. THAT is a fact as well. Just look at the history of lawsuits against the police. It's the only profession where people who have never done the job are somehow the experts on how we should do it. The FACT is that you have no clue until you're there, and you have absolutely no understanding of how you're treated by the public. Get over it.

  • VT1994Hokie Jan 31, 2008

    Officer Harris was doing 84 in a 45 mile zone. I hope that the Trooper will not get into trouble over this. He was not using good judgement and this could hurt his career. Sometimes you can't win by helping fellow police officers.

  • hollywoodbruce Jan 31, 2008

    POLLY, I LIKE THE WAY YOU THINK...YOU THINK LIKE ME...

  • Polly Jan 31, 2008

    This is a temperate board compared to others:-). My gut is the trooper should have written him a ticket immediately for the high speed but that the Durham officer wasn't impaired. Luckily,, no harm no foul. Why was this news? Also, why is there a 7:00 pm cut off for comments? I'm just curious beyond the obvious.

  • superman Jan 31, 2008

    Former officer John Blum should remove his big foot from his mouth. Making a statement that this happends all the time is rather forthright and honest. Anyone caught driving 84 in a 45 zone is certainly reckless and deserves a ticket. That coupled with the alcohol certainly makes it even more important to ticket him-- even if he was not under the influence. With the negative media attention the HP is having now-- officers should be warned that they should be very careful and if anything err on the side of caution. Be better to take critism for giving the ticket than the negative they getting now. And they just making it worse when they fail to acknowlege verbally that the officer and his supervisor made a bad error in judgment. Anyone can make a mistake-- but to continue to deny it-- compounds the error. They talking out the side of their mouth. They said everything was ok-- but then they went back and issued a ticket. Which side they want to be on?

  • Space Mountain Jan 31, 2008

    The most I have ever gone over is 15, and I have never been lucky enough to get just a warning.

  • john283594 Jan 31, 2008

    Oh no, that is wrong! I was only going 80 in a 65...

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