State Highway Patrol has a new commander

RALEIGH Some would say the Highway Patrol's reputation has been blemished recently.

The agency's new commander disagrees, but he made it clear that the agency wants to put the past behind it.

The state capitol echoed with applause as Col. Walter Wilson, Jr., the new commanding officer, and Deputy Col. Jamie Hatcher, the new deputy commander, were sworn in to lead the Highway Patrol.

"I expect you to leave Patrol better, stronger, and more professional than you found it," North Carolina Governor Mike Easley said.

"Our mission is clear; to save lives, direct the best possible law enforcement services to every man woman and child in this great state, based upon high ethical standards," Wilson, Jr. said.

But it's those ethical standards that have come under fire in recent years.

From troopers accused of having sex in patrol cars while on duty, to others charged with extortion and sex abuse. The agency has been plagued with problems, its reputation --some say-- tarnished.

The video of a trooper kicking a dog during k-9 training infuriated some and led to the suspension of all K-9 operations.

"Those things are in the past, they've occurred and been appropriately addressed and I'd like to focus on the future of the Highway Patrol," Wilson, Jr. said.

That focus began Wednesday with a subtle reminder emphasizing the high standards that go along with being a state trooper.

"My administration will not tolerate any employee who breaches his or her oath of office or is unethical in the performance of their duties - this effort will be enforced throughout the Highway Patrol and will begin with my office," Wilson, Jr. added.

Wilson also said his troopers will recite the Highway Patrol's "Oath of Office" more frequently as a reminder of what the agency stands for.

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