Local News

Highway Patrol Releases Records Detailing Officer Punishments

Posted October 24, 2007 3:32 p.m. EDT
Updated October 25, 2007 10:45 a.m. EDT

— Crime Control and Public Safety Secretary Bryan Beatty defended the integrity of the State Highway Patrol on Wednesday as he released a list of two dozen internal affairs cases detailing punishment doled to officers.

The , which covers cases from December 1997 to August 2005, includes a variety of sexual misconduct, mostly involving off-duty affairs that led to disciplinary action ranging from one-day suspensions to demotions and dismissals.

An administrative law judge has ordered the Highway Patrol to produce those records for a court case involving former Trooper Monty Stevens Poarch, who was fired in 2003 for having sex in his patrol cruiser and at a district station.

Beatty said Wednesday he wanted to make them public all at once.

"I will take a black eye today if it will advance the integrity of the patrol for the future," he said.

Poarch's attorney has said the patrol fired Poarch while it only suspended other troopers for serious misconduct.

The list has five cases in which troopers had sex on duty. In three cases, the troopers resigned in lieu of being fired. In one case, a trooper was suspended without pay for one day because the claims could not be substantiated. In a 1998 case, a trooper was suspended without pay for three days.

Beatty said sexual misconduct has been an ongoing problem in all of law enforcement, but that such behavior will not be tolerated by the Highway Patrol.

"Sex on duty will result in dismissal," he said.

"People have to understand the difference between the patrol car and the bedroom," he said later.

Beatty also endorsed how the commander of the 1,800-member force, Col. Fletcher Clay, has handled internal affairs cases.

"We want to assure the public that we will not tolerate serious misconduct," he said. "We will make every effort to maintain the very high standards that the public expects from members of law enforcement."

The patrol's reputation has come under fire as similar cases have recently surfaced recently.

Trooper Scott Harrison was dismissed in August after being accused of targeting young women for overnight traffic stops. After a judge ruled Harrison's credibility was "unworthy of belief," the Wake County district attorney dismissed dozens of charges Harrison had brought against motorists.

Less than a week later, in September, Trooper Michael A. Steele resigned amid allegations that he forced two women he pulled over on separate occasions to kiss him.

A few days later, Sgt. Charles L. Jones was fired after allegations that he abused a dog during a training exercise.

A fourth trooper was fired for undisclosed reasons in late September, and Sgt. John Warren was placed on investigative leave after being charged with driving while impaired.

"You're talking about, in the grand scheme of things, a very small number (of incidents of misconduct), but even that small number can lead the public to perceive there's a serious problem," Beatty said.

Last month, Gov. Mike Easley directed Clay and Beatty to review the patrol's hiring and screening process as well as its supervisory procedures. Beatty said Wednesday, he will have an independent consultant to conduct that review.

"We will not tolerate behavior that blemishes the reputation of the patrol or of law enforcement in general," Beatty said.