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."