Local News

Review: Highway Patrol 'ethical, professional,' but problems exist

Posted April 30, 2008 10:22 a.m. EDT
Updated April 30, 2008 7:38 p.m. EDT

North Carolina State Highway Patrol

— Recent problems with the North Carolina Highway Patrol don't seem to be directly related to any flaws in the agency's hiring process but the first-line supervision of troopers is at a "sub-optimal level."

That's according to a 46-page independent report released Wednesday on the state agency's hiring policies and procedures, supervision and the quality of its ethics training.

At a cost of $98,000, Kroll, an international risk-consulting company, conducted the four-month evaluation following the dismissal of several troopers after allegations of on-duty sexual misconduct, drunken-driving, animal abuse and other acts of personal and professional misconduct.

Less than 1 percent of troopers have caused the problems that have become public and been a concern, the report says. But the ever-increasing administrative burdens on sergeants and first sergeants keep them from adequately supervising troopers on the road.

"There's no smoking gun," Bryan Beatty, secretary of the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. "There's nothing that would be major to change, but there are some things that could enhance the organization if we're able to implement them."

Overall, however, the report is complementary of the Highway Patrol, calling it a "well-managed, ethical and highly professional police organization."

But it does list 43 recommendations for change, including more personal interviews with applicants, more active recruiting and an increase in pay and incentives to make the agency more competitive.

State law limits the number of supervisors in the Highway Patrol to 21 percent – well below the percentage of what other law enforcement agencies have. Kroll suggests the agency ask lawmakers to change that law.

The report also found it to be a challenge for first-line supervisors to watch over troopers within their command, saying the Patrol has a "young generation of sergeants, many of whom lack sufficient experience (professionally and in life) to know when or how to take appropriate action with troopers experiencing personal problems."

Kroll suggests advanced leadership development for patrol supervisors to help manage with personnel issues.

"A real need exists for supervisors to receive leadership development training (and refresher courses) on a regular basis, with a particular emphasis on the development of true leadership skills," it says.

"There are some things we can do to improve, and we're willing to do that," Beatty said. "And I believe the public can continue to have confidence in the Patrol's ability to maintain highway and public safety."