Local News

Easley Orders Review of Patrol Hiring, Management

Posted September 25, 2007 1:25 p.m. EDT
Updated September 25, 2007 10:53 p.m. EDT

— Following an embarrassments series of incidents in which state troopers were fired for policy violations, Gov. Mike Easley on Tuesday called for a review of the hiring and screening process and supervisory procedures of the Highway Patrol.

The order came on the same day the Highway Patrol reassigned two employees, including the head of internal affairs, over how they handled a trooper misconduct case.

Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety Bryan Beatty and Col. Fletcher Clay, the commander of the Highway Patrol, will conduct the review, Easley said.

But Clay said late Tuesday he would prefer an outside agency audit the Highway Patrol as soon as possible.

"It would mean more to the public if they heard the assessment was from the outside," said Clay, who has headed the Highway Patrol and its 1,800 troopers and staff members for the last three years. "I still feel confident that there is not a systemic problem throughout the organization."

Easley said he wants to make sure standards for joining the agency are high enough to screen out the type of behavior that has occurred recently. He also asked for a review of administrative training and procedures in the patrol to make sure supervisors are properly managing troopers at the district level.

“I am proud of the patrol and, while nearly all are outstanding public servants, there are a few who are not,” he said in a statement. “Col. Clay is right to fire troopers who violate the law and patrol policy, but we need to find out how these people get hired in the first place.”

Troopers already have to submit to a polygraph test, background check and psychological testing to get hired, but Michael McGuinness, the attorney for the North Carolina Troopers Association, said he welcomes a review of the hiring process and said he hopes to provide input.

In the past month, 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.

Last week, a judge ordered the Highway Patrol to reinstate a trooper who was fired in 2003 for having sex in his patrol car and office. The judge said other troopers had exhibited similar misconduct but had been allowed to retain their jobs.

The Highway Patrol plans to appeal the judge's ruling to the State Personnel Commission.

Meanwhile, Capt. Ken Castelloe, the head of the agency's internal affairs unit was reassigned Tuesday to field operations and Lt. David Langley was reassigned from internal affairs to administrative services after questions arose about the way they handled Castelloe's involvement in a traffic accident this year.

Between five and 12 troopers have been fired each year from 2003 to 2006.

"It brings attention that is not favorable to the Highway Patrol," Clay said. "The challenge is to recover and ensure the public that, for the most part, there are good folks who are working hard every day."

As a result of recent incidents, Clay has taken several internal steps, including ordering increased ethics training for all staff during the next series of in-service classes and directing his command staff to reinforce proper behavior and decision making to all members in their districts.