WRAL Investigates

WRAL Investigates: Highway Patrol's internal affairs complaints

Posted July 22, 2010 6:00 p.m. EDT
Updated July 22, 2010 8:24 p.m. EDT

— From restructuring to hiring a new leader, the North Carolina Highway Patrol is in for change. High profile cases of troopers getting in trouble have plagued the patrol for the past few years. So how often are troopers getting in trouble?

The WRAL Investigates team looked at internal affairs investigations involving sworn officers for the past few years to see if the firings were out of the norm.

From 2006 to 2009, an average of 17 troopers resigned or were fired amid an investigation each year, which is less than 1 percent of the force. Neighboring Tennessee reported a similar rate, and Virginia’s was lower.

The highest percentage of internal affairs complaints of sworn officers was in Troop D, which stretches from Lee County north of Greensboro. The lowest percentage of complaints was in Troop G in the mountains.

“That small percentage that we read or hear about every day are killing the image of the patrol,” said Gov. Bev Perdue. “A few can destroy the many, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to fix it.”

Complaints can range from job performance, such as not doing paperwork, to fictitious illness or injury to serious conduct issues like one case of obstructing an investigation.

The reports showed more than 60 percent of complaints were substantiated year after year, and most complaints didn't come from the outside – they were mostly troopers reporting other troopers.

Perdue is working to appoint a transition team to replace the head of the Highway Patrol, Col. Randy Glover, who announced unexpectedly on Friday that he would step down on Sept. 1. Perdue's announcement could come Friday. Until then, she has urged Highway Patrol leaders to visit with troopers across the state.

“I’ve urged the local leaders, the first sergeants in the districts, the leadership and the troops across the state to get out in the field, to do it the old fashioned way, to find out what’s going on with the men and women in the patrol. Sort out those at risk, to mentor, to teach and to supervise,” she said.

John Midgette with the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association, which represents troopers, said he believes the problems are at the top.

“I don’t think replacing a colonel is as much an issue as finding out what’s going on above the colonel,” he said.

Midgette points to Troop X, which includes trooper headquarters in Raleigh, the aviation unit, motor unit and training academy. Complaints were evenly mixed in most troops between job performance issues and personal conduct issues, except Troop X.

Complaints weren’t necessarily higher in Troop X, but personal conduct issues far out weighed job performance issues.

In 2007, one officer was in trouble for seeking or accepting gifts, favors or bribes. Another was in trouble for bias-based profiling.

“I think X marks the spot here, and the Archdale crowd has a lot to do with where the investigation needs to start,” Midgette said.