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Pat McCrory requests a body guard

A day after his election, Pat McCrory is getting his own body guard.

The governor-elect requested a Highway Patrol executive security detail and Gov. Bev Perdue approved it. McCrory wouldn't normally receive body guard until taking office, but he is allowed to request it early, subject to approval.

Because he is not the state's chief executive for the next two months, the governor's office said McCrory will pay for the security detail with the transition money provided by the state legislature. Costs remain uncertain.

McCrory traveled the campaign trail in a Cadillac sedan drive by aide Morgan Beam. Now a state Highway Patrol trooper will drive him in a state car or SUV.

Patrol does not track all complaints about trooper behavior

How many drivers called or wrote the N.C. Highway Patrol last year to complain about the behavior or actions of state troopers?

Turns out the patrol doesn't know.

Patrol spokesman 1st Sgt. Jeff Gordon said the Highway Patrol only logs in complaints from people who make allegations against troopers that are considered to constitute a violation of patrol policies, such as illegal acts.

Complaints about trooper demeanor, such as a trooper was "rude" or "impolite," are unlikely to meet that standard.

Other types of complaints, such as allegations a trooper wrote a driver a ticket for a violation the driver didn't commit, are "left to the courts to decide," Gordon wrote in an email.

In 2010, the patrol logged receiving 223 complaints from members of the public. Of those, 186 resulted in formal investigations of troopers.

As a result of those investigations, disciplinary action was imposed in 121 cases — 94 written warnings and 21 suspensions. Six troopers were fired, according to Gordon.

Those numbers appear to be in line with the totals for complaints logged going back to at least 2003.

How the patrol tracks complaints from the public has long been an issue at the agency. Following a string of cases of serious misconduct involving troopers, a group of outside consultants was hired to perform a 2008 review of the patrol's hiring, training and disciplinary proceedures.

The consultants report, known as the Kroll Review, made specific recommendations about how complaints made about troopers should be logged and classified.

"Develop a process by which complaints are documented when lodged with a receipt provided to the complainant," the report recommended. "This would help to ensure that all complaints are timely routed, properly classified, and appropriately investigated."

Sen. Goolsby doubles down on support for accused troopers

State Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Wilmington Republican and lawyer, said Wednesday his support for two state troopers accused of misconduct is not shaken by the release of text messages showing the law officers profanely expressed ridicule and contempt for a woman wrongfully arrested for drunken driving.

Over the weekend, Goolsby issued a statement giving his unequivocal support to Senior Trooper Edward S. Wyrick and Trooper Andrew M. Smith.

"As an attorney who practices in our local courts, I have known these troopers for the entire time they have enforced the law in southeastern North Carolina," Goolsby wrote in an e-mail to The N&O. "I have never received any complaints about them. My personal experience was that they were professional, honest and forthright. ... It is time that someone spoke up and defended our troopers. I am doing so now."

On Tuesday the patrol released text messages showing that the two troopers exchanged messages shortly after Gina Tessener twice blew a 0.00 on an an alcohol breath test, prompting a comment from her lawyer husband that Wyrick should be ashamed of himself.

"Hahahaha f--- her and f--- him," Smith texted to Wyrick after learning of the exchange.

Moments later, Smith would pull Tessener's husband as he followed Wyrick and his wife to the county jail. The newly released texts may contradict Wyrick's written report of Gina Tessener's arrest, in which he wrote: "I never made contact with Trp. Smith while enroute to the jail until after I verified he stopped her husband."

Goolsby said Wednesday he didn't see anything in the messages that would lead him to change his earlier statement.

"The texts confirm the consistent story given in the report provided by the trooper," Goolsby wrote in an e-mail. "I have seen no evidence that the husband was set up in any way. These troopers are professional and respected in our area. No allegations have ever been made that any foul language was spoken to the driver or her husband. The inconsistent statements have all come from the husband of the driver. Until and unless I see something to the contrary, I continue to stand behind our troopers."

GOP senator backs troopers accused of misconduct

Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Republican from Wilmington, has issued a statement in support of two state troopers accused of falsely arresting a Raleigh mother for drunken driving and then orchestrating an unjustified traffic stop of her husband.

The N.C. Highway Patrol is conducting an internal affairs investigation, but Goolsby, a lawyer, said he has already seen enough to make up his mind that the troopers are innocent of the allegations against them.

Like most of the public, I was shocked at the allegations recently made against two local N.C. State Troopers regarding the DWI arrest of Gina Tessener. I was sent a copy of the letter to the Governor written by Tessener's lawyer-husband. In the letter, the husband made numerous allegations of abuse and illegal conduct against our troopers.

I read the letter with interest and concern. As an attorney who practices in our local courts, I have known these troopers for the entire time they have enforced the law in southeastern North Carolina. I have never received any complaints about them. My personal experience was that they were professional, honest and forthright.

When I learned that there was a video tape from the detention center, I watched it with interest. I was shocked and angered when it was apparent that the video did not represent several of the allegations made in the letter.

I have personally spoken with the Governor, Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety and the Commander of the Highway Patrol expressing my frustration over what I perceive to be false allegations. Further, because both of these troopers were immediately placed on administrative leave, our county will be short of law enforcement officers to protect the public from drunk drivers during 4th of July weekend.

It is time that someone spoke up and defended our troopers. I am doing so now.

Perdue: 'Zero tolerance for unacceptable behavior'; troopers put on desk duty

Gov. Bev Perdue issued a statement repeating that she has "zero tolerance for unacceptable behavior" when it comes to the actions of state troopers.

Perdue also disclosed that two troopers accused of mistreating a Raleigh mother and her husband have been placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of an internal affair investigation.

"We expect the absolute best from state employees," Perdue said, according to the written statement. "This incident has been under investigation since it came to light. These two troopers have been placed on administrative duty. The secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety and the colonel of the Highway Patrol will take appropriate action upon completion of their investigation.”

The investigation of Senior Trooper Edward S. Wyrick and Trooper Andrew Smith was prompted by an eight-page letter sent to Perdue Friday by Raleigh lawyer Hoyt Tessener, detailing his wife Gina's negative experience with Wyrick earlier this month in Wilmington.

The Tesseners have accused Wyrick of falsely arresting the 51-year-old mother of three, mistreating her and then orchestrating an unjustified traffic stop of her husband by Smith.

Hoyt Tessener said Thursday he is pleased to hear the troopers have been taken off the road, at least until the investigation is complete.

"That's the right thing to do," he said. "I'm thankful for the governor's actions. I hope they do have a fair and impartial investigation."

Pistol accidently fired inside Highway Patrol HQ

A high-ranking trooper accidentally fired her service weapon this week at the headquarters of the N.C. Highway Patrol in downtown Raleigh.

Maj. Patricia Poole, who commands the patrol's administrative services staff, was inside a bathroom in the Archdale Building when her .357 caliber Smith & Wesson discharged.

No one was injured.

"Stuff happens," said Sgt. Jeff Gordon, the patrol's spokesman. "When you go to the restroom, you have about 10 pounds of gear you have to take down to do .... whatever."  

Gordon said he did not hear the shot and he didn't know where the wayward bullet ended up.

Civilians taking firearms training are typically coached not to have a round chambered in the weapon unless they intend to fire as a precaution against accidental discharge.

However, troopers and other law enforcement officers are trained to have a round chambered even when their weapon is holstered, so they are ready to draw and fire immediately when a life-threatening situation occurs. 

Gordon said that standard of readiness applies whenever the trooper is on duty, even if he or she is only pushing paperwork at headquarters.

"There are workplace shootings all the time," Gordon explained.

As is standard protocol in cases where a service weapon is discharged accidentally, there will be an internal inquiry. Poole while then be sent to remedial firearms training, Gordon said.

N.C. Trooper nominated for national prize

A North Carolina trooper is one of 40 first responders from around the country nominated for the 2011 All-Star prize from the television show America's Most Wanted.

Sr. Trooper Jack Thorpe of Smithfield, a trooper since 2007, has been recognized for separate incidents where he helped save a woman's life using CPR, delivered a baby on the roadside and protected children who were being abused.

A short write-up on Thorpe is included on the show's web site, where members of the public vote to pick the winner. 

The N&O profiled Thorpe in 2008 after he was credited with helping saving the life of Elgia Mae Hinton, a day care owner who was severely injured in an auto crash near Clayton.

Last year, Thorpe was honored with the Distinguished Service Award and Highway Patrol Meritorious Award from the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety after he was credited with helping rescue three children who were allegedly being abused by their father and step-mother while traveling from the Myrtle Beach.

Another trooper under criminal investigation

A state trooper is under investigation by the SBI for allegations of "doctor shopping" to gain access to prescription drugs.

Jennifer Canada, a spokeswoman for the office of Attorney General Roy Cooper, said an investigation of patrol 1st Sgt. Tim Baldwin was opened Jan. 14 at the request of the Sanford Police Department. That investigation is still ongoing.

Baldwin, a trooper since 1992 who is posted to Lillington, has been placed on administrative duty by the patrol.

Maj. Kevin Gray with the Sanford police said the request for an investigation was triggered by a tip to a narcotics officer. Gray said the AG's office was contacted because they have access to a statewide list of perscriptions for controlled narcotics.

Gray described "doctor shopping" as the act of going to several doctors to gain multiple prescriptions for tightly regulated pain killers, such as OxyContin or OxyCodone.

Power shift: meet the new players

The new power brokers: A dentist, a real estate appraiser and a bail bondsman. A former county manager, a farmer and a small-town lawyer. These are some of the key Republican lawmakers who will carry out the vision of GOP leaders when the N.C. General Assembly arrives Wednesday in Raleigh. Nearly all have been placed in powerful positions that craft budgets, set taxes and control the flow of legislation. (N&O)

Former trooper focus of investigation: Law enforcement officials acknowledge that there is a criminal investigation of former state Highway Patrol Trooper Larry B. Lovick that is directly related to a complaint that the trooper exposed himself to a young woman. (N&O)

GOP ranks are diverse: When Republicans last controlled the legislature in 1898, they arrived in Raleigh by train or horse and buggy, and theirs was the party most closely tied to African-Americans and to progressive causes. The new GOP legislature that arrives Wednesday by cars, pickup trucks and SUVs is a much more conservative party — more like the old-line Democrats — believing in small government and low taxes. While the new Republican majority arrives relatively united in philosophy, it is far from a monolith. (N&O)

Evidence withholding could send cops to jail: A proposal from a group working to fix problems at the State Bureau of Investigation could reach much further: Law-enforcement officers and forensic lab analysts could end up on the wrong side of the law if they fail to give prosecutors all of their notes from an investigation.
Legislators will be asked to consider a new law that would allow prosecutors to charge cops with obstructing justice if they knowingly withhold or misrepresent evidence that discovery laws require to be turned over to defendants. (N&O)

A little good news for state employees

Cheaper insurance for state employees: State and local government retirees will get a break for the next three years on vision and dental insurance offered through a preferred broker with the state treasurer's office that could save them on average about $130 a year. (N&O)

Defense cuts small for N.C.: North Carolina leaders exhaled Thursday as Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced sweeping cuts to Pentagon programs for the coming years - but left the Tar Heel state largely unscathed.
There will be a two-year delay in eight squadrons of F-35B Joint Strike Fighter jets scheduled for Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in the next decade, but no cuts, and little else to affect the state, officials said. (N&O)

Highway patrol report due: After months of inaction, a group Gov. Bev Perdue appointed to advise her about improving the N.C. Highway Patrol is preparing to release a final report of recommendations aimed at improving an agency rocked by numerous cases of trooper misconduct. (N&O)

Edwards estate valued: Probate forms filed in Orange County Superior Court last month with the last will and testament of Elizabeth Edwards estimate the total value of the estate left to her children at $1,496,000. (N&O)
 

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