HP: Taking panel's recommendations seriously

RALEIGH Governor Bev Perdue appointed the blue-ribbon panel months ago to help figure out how to clean up the troubled agency.

The panel's final report amounts to a roadmap for how the North Carolina Highway Patrol can rebuild its image, which took a beating last year after a series of scandals, many involving senior personnel.

It took the governor's advisory panel more than six months to turn out the seven page report.

Click here to read the final report

There wasn't always consensus on the panel, but ultimately they all signed their names to it.

On Wednesday, ABC11 sat down with Crime Control Secretary Reuben Young and recently appointed Highway Patrol Colonel Michael Gilchrist to get their sense of the advisory panel's final report.

"We didn't walk into this process without thinking that this organization was without a need for some improvement," Young said.

"I certainly think there's opportunities for improvement," Gilchrist said. "This is not the same world it was 20 years ago."

Gilchrist says they've already begun making some of the changes recommended by the panel.

Later this month they'll begin contracting with the FBI for leadership training. And by the end of the year soliciting bids for ethics training for every sworn officer should take effect, along with revamping performance reviews at the patrol.

But none of it gets to the central issue of the final report. Panel member Chris Swecker said the state Highway Patrol doesn't adequately track disciplinary problems or get to their root cause after they happen.

"Were there red flags over the course of that person's career that should have given the supervisor indications that there would be problems later if these were ignored later, for example," Swecker said. "So there wasn't a whole lot of studying of these incidents or analyzation of these incidents to learn from them."

Gilchrist says that too will change, because of the report. They've asked software giant SAS to develop a new database for internal affairs.

"I think it's going to be very helpful in the future," he said. "Looking at trends, being proactive, not reactive."

That exactly what, Swecker says, he was hoping to hear. Now, he says it's up to the patrol to make change happen.

"Time will tell whether this was a serious effort to get to the issues," Swecker said.

The report also suggested a change in state law to allow people outside the patrol to become colonel right now, they cannot.

Secretary Young says he's fully on board with that recommendation.

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