Saunders

Saunders: Trooper conduct is a roadside test for Gov. Perdue

Staff WriterJuly 12, 2011 

You know how Gina Tessener blew a 0.00?

Well, Gubna, you're blowing it, too.

Readers are incensed that, despite Perdue's vow of "zero tolerance" for trooper misconduct, Senior Trooper Edward Wyrick is back riding herd over state roads and Trooper Andrew Smith has been suspended but will likely be back in the saddle, too.

Whether Wyrick's stop of Tessener's Lexus was a "righteous stop" - I heard that on "Hill Street Blues" years ago - is still open for debate. But let's say Wyrick was doing what a good trooper should do when he sees a one-eyed car. Maybe it was a coincidence that the driver just happened to be a blonde driving alone.

That still doesn't justify Wyrick's unverifiable claim of smelling booze. State law said he "may" arrest her if she refuses to take a roadside sobriety test, but a veteran trooper should know when to walk away, know when to run - and when to let the lady proceed on her way. Wyrick also noted that Tessener - whom he handcuffed and placed in the backseat of his cruiser for the ride to the Wrightsville Beach Police Station - was unsteady upon exiting her car.

Who wouldn't be? I don't know about you, but I always get weak in the knees when a cop pulls me over - and I don't even wear pumps and an evening gown.

Women readers, especially, are angered by the thought of a woman thus attired and driving alone being pulled over for a reason many view as specious at best.

You should listen to them, Governor, and to a reader named Rob, who wrote, "The big lie here is 'I smelled alcohol' as the excuse to have a pretty lady walk the line and stand on one foot."

Pronouncements of zero tolerance ring hollow when not backed by action, Governor. Not only that, but they paint you into a corner: Do we really want officers fired for every misstep, or are some more egregious than others?

Some of the scores of readers from whom I heard still have confidence in the patrol, but too many were in the camp of a reader named David, who wrote, "It is a shame that we can't, because of this incident and many others involving troopers in the last several years, have more confidence in the Highway Patrol. ... It makes me sad and nervous when I see a patrol car."

Yikes. That is not what you want to hear from citizens regarding the state's top law enforcement division.

It doesn't pass

Face it, Gov. The decision by Wyrick and Smith to talk on an unmonitored radio frequency after Tessener's arrest doesn't pass the smell test, nor does Smith's explanation that his text - "YOUUUU MFER" - after Wyrick told him he'd stopped a female driver was just a pat on the back for getting a drunken driver off the road. To most readers, it came across like a texted wink, a "you lucky dog, you."

That's probably why a reader named Sarah offered this advice. "If Governor Perdue really wants to reform the Highway Patrol, I strongly suggest that she change their hats. Guys wearing phallic symbols on their heads are bound to develop attitudes."

barry.saunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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