Agency wants clarification on new trooper policy

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July 21, 2010 9:19:33 PM PDT
The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on the North Carolina Highway Patrol to clarify a new policy related to cell phone records.The new policy allows state Highway Patrol to look at a trooper's personal cell phone records.

The policy is one of several changes announced by the patrol following a string of scandals and reports of trooper misconduct.

"We don't care who they're talking to, we doing care what they're talking about, we just want to make sure they're working and not spending an inordinate amount of time on the cell phone," said Crime Control and Public Safety Secretary Reuben Young earlier this week.

However, the ACLU wants to make sure it doesn't go too far. In a one page letter, the organization is asking the state Highway Patrol to put their intentions in writing.

"There are privacy interests at stake and perhaps the policies they issue should be narrowly drawn so they don't sweep in more personal information than they need," ACLU of North Carolina Executive Director Jennifer Rutinger said.

She says the organization faxed the letter to the agency Wednesday morning.

Rutinger says the ACLU understands the need for the highway patrol to make sure employees are working when they say they are. She says releasing personal phone records that only include dates, times and duration of calls should be enough to meet that need.

"What the department does not need to see, but would be on those bills are the phone numbers being called and in some cases the cities or the locations being called," she said.

That's why the ACLU is asking the Highway Patrol to give employees the option of blacking out non-essential information from their bills.

"We expect that they'll think this is a good idea, we hope they think this is a good idea," Rutinger said. "And it would certainly go a long way towards protecting privacy."

In the meantime, Gov. Bev Perdue has instructed Young and North Carolina Highway Patrol commander Colonel Randy Glover to talk to troopers about the future of the patrol.

Glover and Young were in Monroe on Monday telling troopers to sign and accept the new ethics policy or turn in their badge.

On Thursday, Glover and Young will visit Troop C Headquarters on Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh.

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