N.C. Capitol Police now under Highway Patrol – but not part of it

N.C. Highway Patrol and Capitol Police cruisers stand guard outside the state Capitol.
N.C. Highway Patrol and Capitol Police cruisers stand guard outside the state Capitol.

N.C. Highway Patrol and Capitol Police cruisers stand guard outside the state Capitol.

RALEIGH – A little noticed provision in the $21.7 billion budget changes the administrative home of the Capitol Police, the force that protects the old state Capitol building and the surrounding executive branch buildings in downtown Raleigh. The force will now be organized under the State Highway Patrol, but a bill passed Tuesday – almost two weeks after the budget was signed into law – clarifies that the Capitol Police chief, law enforcement officers and employees are not considered members of the State Highway Patrol.

The provision may be more than mere segregation of administrative units. In 2014 a group of state troopers sued the state over promised pay raises that had not been delivered. The lawsuit claimed that the promised “step increases” had been ignored dating back to 2009.

When Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget was unveiled early this year, increasing trooper pay was made a priority, along with the salaries of first-year teachers and correctional officers. Under his proposal, the Capitol Police, as well as most state employees, would have seen their pay increase only if they were eligible for “longevity pay,” an automatic raise state employees receive for staying employed for a certain number of years.

In the budget compromise McCrory signed Sept. 18, all state employees received a $750, one-time bonus, but troopers also received step increases on top of the bonus. House Bill 735 was passed nearly unanimously and makes other changes in the Department of Public Safety. The governor can sign the bill into law, let it become law without his signature, or veto it.

The Capitol Police has 57 sworn officers, while the Highway Patrol has more than 1,600 troopers, according to the Department of Public Safety.