RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Two North Carolina State Highway Patrol troopers are being investigated as part of a probe into “traffic ticket irregularities” in Harnett County, according to highway patrol officials.
One of those troopers has since “been separated from the Highway Patrol,” according to a press release from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety sent Wednesday morning.
According to the release, “[t]he State Personnel Act prohibits the Highway Patrol from providing a detailed response” to questions that have been posed by media outlets to the department regarding the investigation.
Highway patrol did confirm that the irregularities in Harnett County “were first discovered by a supervisor during a weekly review of citations” in June.
“Upon discovering these irregularities, the SHP immediately initiated an internal investigation. Due to the serious nature of these allegations, the SHP contacted both the Harnett County District Attorney and the State Bureau of Investigation, who are conducting independent investigations into this matter,” officials said.
The highway patrol’s investigation focused in on tickets that had been issued by a single trooper in the county.
That trooper has been identified as Jason R. Benson, a nine-year veteran who was previously assigned to Troop B, District 8 (Harnett County). According to officials, he was “separated” from the highway patrol on Monday and is no longer employed by the department.
According to the release, the same investigation into the one specific trooper “resulted in the discovery of additional evidence related to the possible involvement of another trooper which is now part of an ongoing investigation.”
The second trooper under investigation has been identified as five-year veteran Christopher S. Carter. He is also assigned to Troop B, District 8. Carter is currently on administrative duty pending an ongoing internal investigation, authorities said.
SBI spokesperson Anjanette Grube told CBS 17 on Tuesday that investigators are looking into claims that some troopers wrote citations “without actually serving them on the person who was being cited.” That means the person cited may not have been aware of the additional citations until later, perhaps when they went to court or to try to pay a fine.
When asked Wednesday about the investigation, Gov. Roy Cooper said, “I absolutely have concerns. And, I know the department would have concerns. I don’t know how much detail has been discussed, but that matter needs to be thoroughly investigated and whatever action needs to be taken should be taken.”
It’s not clear how far back the investigation goes, how many drivers’ cases are impacted or how many troopers are under investigation. The investigation only pertains cases in Harnett County, Grube said.
She said the investigation started June 14 upon the request of Harnett County District Attorney Vernon Stewart and the N.C. State Highway Patrol.
Stewart did not respond to messages seeking additional comment, including when CBS 17 stopped by his office at the courthouse on Tuesday. He responded Wednesday only to say he would not comment on the investigation.
It’s unclear what impact the investigation has on pending cases. Clerk of Court Marsha Johnson said her office had not received any communication about the investigation.
This latest investigation comes as the highway patrol is also conducting an internal review of its promotional testing process, following a complaint that it’s been compromised.
Col. Glenn McNeill said promotions are on hold while that review is underway. He said the agency received the anonymous complaint June 20 and initiated the internal investigation the next day.
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