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Panel: Commander should come from patrol ranks

A blue-ribbon panel recommended Wednesday that Gov. Beverly Perdue select the next commander of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol using current rules that prevent an outsider from being appointed.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A blue-ribbon panel recommended Wednesday that Gov. Bev Perdue select the next commander of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol using current rules that prevent an outsider from being appointed.

Perdue asked the patrol’s Leadership Advisory Group to report back to her by Wednesday, the last day on the job for patrol commander Col. Randy Glover.

"They have made strong recommendations about how to proceed in identifying a new commander, and Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety Reuben Young and the patrol plan to move forward with those steps,” Perdue said in a statement.

State law essentially narrows the choice for commander to those within the agency. The advisory group says Perdue should act now rather than wait to try to change that rule in the General Assembly in 2011 so that the patrol isn't left with an "indefinite limbo" in its leadership.

Perdue said she plans to name an acting commander until a replacement for Glover can be named. He unexpectedly announced in July that he would step down, saying he didn't want to become a target for the patrol's critics.

"I actually hope that we have that in place in the next day or two, and then I hope it's fairly seamless," she said. "If the report from the committee says we can do it quickly, we'll do it quickly. I have full confidence in the committee and look forward to working with them in the selection process."

The Highway Patrol's image has been plagued in recent years by a number of cases involving state troopers who have resigned, been fired or been disciplined for inappropriate or questionable conduct, including profiling, drunken driving, animal abuse, sex on duty and inappropriate text messages.

Perdue formed the advisory panel to help Young devise a restructuring plan for the agency, but the group said it needs more time to develop recommendations on possible legislative reforms and how to rebuild the patrol's focus on integrity and honor.

"These are issues of significant complexity, and the group needs additional information regarding disciplinary complaints and actions in order to determine whether past acts of personal misconduct are the result of individual choices/decisions or something systemic in the function of the patrol," the panel wrote in its 14-page report.

John Midgette, executive director of the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association, said he was encouraged by the panel's stance.

"We absolutely do believe a few bad apples have caused this problem," Midgette said. "Because those bad apples are at the top of the leadership chain of the Highway Patrol, it has created a cultural problem, where there's been a disparity of treatment and, we believe, a violation of law and policy that has created horrible morale within the Highway Patrol."

On his last day on the job, Glover sent a letter to all troopers, thanking them for their hard work.

"This is my last day that I officially wear the uniform of a North Carolina State Trooper," he wrote.

"However, I will be a Trooper for eternity. No one will ever take my pride and the respect I have for this organization."

Noting the urgency of putting a new commander in place, however, the panel recommended hiring someone with a solid record in the Highway Patrol who has completed outside leadership training courses and can pass rigorous background checks and not waiting to find someone from outside.

Panel members also recommended shifting 18 people from patrol headquarters in Raleigh to district offices across the state within two years to achieve a goal of having one supervisor for every eight troopers statewide.

Several policy changes were also suggested, including requiring troopers to live in the county that they patrol, allowing managers to review staffers' personal cell phone bills, requiring troopers to notify supervisors when the have people of the opposite sex in their patrol cars and using a list of top performers to govern promotions.

The Highway Patrol also should contract with the Gen. Hugh Shelton Leadership Center or the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association to create ethics and leadership training programs, the panel said.

Panel members were University of North Carolina law professors Julius Chambers and Norma Houston, former FBI assistant director Chris Swecker, Mecklenburg County District Attorney Peter Gilchrist, former state Court of Appeals Judge Ralph Walker and former state Supreme Court Justice Burley Mitchell.

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