Local Politics

Cleaning house at Highway Patrol requires legislative action

Posted July 8, 2010 4:40 p.m. EDT
Updated July 9, 2010 9:43 a.m. EDT

— Lawmakers said Thursday that they might need to take action to help clean house within the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, which has been battered by a seemingly unending string of misconduct cases involving state troopers.

Gov. Beverly Perdue called Wednesday for restructuring the patrol, but she provided few specifics. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety Secretary Reuben Young and Col. Randy Glover, the commander of the patrol, have 60 days to develop restructuring plan.

A number of troopers and patrol officers have been disciplined or fired in recent years for offenses that included profiling young women for traffic stops, drunken driving, animal abuse and having sex on duty.

In the last month alone, the State Bureau of Investigation launched a probe into the activities of a trooper after a Raleigh woman alleged that he exposed himself to her in his patrol car, another trooper resigned after being charged with driving while impaired and hit-and-run and the longtime spokesman for the agency resigned amid an internal investigation into text messages he sent to a co-worker.

"The few bad apples that are there, we need to get rid of them and do it quickly," state Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, said Thursday.

John Midgette, executive director of the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association, said politics with the Highway Patrol needs to be wiped clean before any reform can occur.

"Whether it's Col. Glover or any other colonel, I think what the system has shown is that it doesn't matter who's in the position. As long as this is a politically based system, you're going to have improper patronage," Midgette said.

Perdue appointed Glover, whom she has known from her days as a lawmaker from New Bern, to lead the patrol last year. Despite continued problems, she is sticking by him.

"I was surprised the governor didn't move ahead with making that replacement to make a real strong statement," said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake.

Critics of the Highway Patrol point to state law that says leadership of the agency can come only from the governor, the secretary of crime control and public safety or within the patrol's ranks.

The law apparently was passed to ensure the patrol's leadership had familiarity and experience with the agency.

"I think we need to thoroughly examine changing that statute," McKissick said. "We need to provide the governor with flexibility in deciding who the commander is. We need to use the full talent base of the country, which is not limited to our state."

Perdue and Glover have previously issued a zero-tolerance policy for trooper misconduct, and the governor on Wednesday made ethics training and a mandatory for all troopers. Patrol managers also would receive more leadership training.

The code of conduct includes the following statement: "As a Trooper, my behavior will not discredit the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, my community or the State of North Carolina. My character and conduct while off duty will always be exemplary, thus maintaining a position of respect in the community in which I live and serve. My personal behavior will be beyond reproach."

Glover and Young will crisscross the state to meet with troopers and find out what problems exist in an effort to boost  communication within the patrol.

Dollar said he was concerned that Glover blames media coverage for the patrol's problems.

"If the commander is not convinced that he has a problem that he needs to address within this organization, then we need a new commander," he said.