New leaders named for Highway Patrol, ALE, Capitol Police

cjarvis@newsobserver.comMarch 29, 2013 

— A veteran trooper, a federal agent and a local police chief will run the three main state law enforcement agencies under control of the new Republican administration, the governor announced at a swearing-in ceremony Thursday.

Gov. Pat McCrory reached into the upper ranks of the State Highway Patrol to promote a 22-year veteran to become the 26th commander: Col. William J. Grey, 52, of Cary.

He also chose a current FBI agent, Gregory K. Baker, 49, of Raleigh to become director of the Alcohol Law Enforcement division. And the governor named Clayton Police Chief Glen B. Allen, 54, to become chief of the State Capitol Police.

All three agencies have had their share of scandals over the years. And at the ceremony in the Old House Chamber of the State Capitol, packed with law enforcement officials, relatives and politicians, McCrory called on the officers to uphold the highest standards.

“Give us your best,” he said. “People are looking at men and women in uniform for respect, and we will follow through. I want you to know in these dangerous times I stand with you. This administration stands with you. The hard-working men and women of North Carolina stand with you.”

The Highway Patrol’s image has suffered from periodic misconduct on the part of some troopers and their supervisors for at least the past 20 years. It has also traditionally been a politicized agency, where troopers hoping to advance their careers sought out key politicians as sponsors.

But it is also one of the largest two law enforcement agencies in the state (about the same size as the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department; both have around 1,600 sworn officers), and so is bound to have occasional problems.

An outside review of the patrol several years ago found the problems had received disproportionate public attention, and that the patrol was “well managed, ethical and highly professional.” Even so, the patrol took steps to address concerns, including installing new software to track complaints against troopers and more ethics training.

One recommendation from another study was to hire a commander from outside the ranks of the patrol, but that would require a change in state law.

Additional promotions

Two other promotions were announced as part of Thursday’s reshuffling. Grey, who was a major, was promoted over his supervisor, Lt. Col. Gary L. Bell, who had been acting commander since Col. Michael Gilchrist retired in February, following McCrory’s election.

Bell, 50, of Raleigh, who has been with the patrol since 1986, was named deputy commander. Maj. Billy T. Clayton, 46, of Burlington, who has been with the patrol since 1989, was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

The patrol’s new commander joined in 1991 as a former Marine corporal. He has been stationed in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point, Cary and Raleigh, and most recently supervised the support services section. He received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Guilford College in 2008.

Early in his career, Grey became part of a select drug enforcement team, which earned him praise and criticism. In 1995, Grey pulled over a tractor-trailer rig on Interstate 85 near Archdale that turned out to be carrying $4.2 million worth of cocaine.

The following year, an investigation by The News & Observer found that the drug team was charging minority drivers at nearly twice the rate of other troopers working the same roads. Grey charged 27 minorities in a row, for such violations as failing to wear a seat belt and driving without a license.

The patrol insisted it wasn’t targeting minorities.

‘A solemn ceremony’

The choice of a federal agent to head Alcohol Law Enforcement is a departure from past practices of promoting from among the ranks, but it’s not entirely surprising. Baker has worked closely with state and local law enforcement in the Triangle since 2008. Department of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan, a former federal prosecutor, earlier this year hired former FBI supervising agent Frank Perry to be his commissioner of law enforcement.

The previous ALE director, John Ledford, was criticized in a state audit for failing to keep adequate records of how he used his state car.

Ledford objected to the audit and said he only used the car on business, even though it coincided with trips home to the mountains from ALE headquarters in Raleigh. Ledford asked to be demoted to agent and re-assigned to his home turf in Asheville in advance of the McCrory administration’s arrival.

ALE sounds like an outdated agency that chases moonshiners. But it has expanded to chasing fugitives and escapees, serving high-risk warrants, and shutting down crime-ridden nightclubs and motels. Still, half its arrests are for alcohol violations.

Allen has been Clayton’s police chief since 2006. He was the chief of the Henderson Police Department for nine years. He has a master’s degree in public administration from East Carolina University, and is a past president of the N.C. Association of Chiefs of Police.

Earlier this year, acting Capitol Police chief Tony Asion and a sergeant were dismissed after Department of Public Safety administrators looked into Asion’s off-duty employment enterprise. Asion claims he was let go because he blew the whistle on double-dipping salaries on the police force.

State Supreme Court Justice Mark Martin swore in the patrol officers. Baker and Allen could not be officially sworn in until they formally sever from their current jobs.

In January, Shanahan moved into his job running the 25,000-employee Department of Public Safety, which is still settling in from a massive merger with the state departments of juvenile justice and prisons in 2011.

Shanahan also spoke Thursday, praising the law enforcement officers in what he called “a simple yet solemn ceremony.” He said the United States’ reliance on the rule of law depends on them.

“You can pass all the laws that you can. Unless you have good, honest people of high integrity to enforce those laws it doesn’t work,” Shanahan said.

Jarvis: 919-829-4576

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