A South Carolina Highway Patrol officer who says “God called him” to serve as one handed in his letter of resignation after testifying against one of his own directors today.
Sgt. David Whatley was reportedly in tears, reports Associated Press, as he lit into Leroy Smith, the Director of the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.
Sergeant Whatley said that morale in the Highway Patrol was crashing. Troopers, he said, were scared to do their jobs — afraid of reprimands and internal investigations mounted by Department of Public Safety leadership.
Figures from a recent South Carolina Office of Inspector General report would appear to support his claims about morale. That report found that 58 percent of Department of Public Safety employees report low morale at the agency. The department has also lost some 15 percent of its employees in the previous fiscal year.
“Troopers are constantly getting reprimanded for minor infractions,” he said. “To the point where they are scared to do their job.” He says that complaints against the agency carry more weight than a trooper’s word, and complains that discipline on State Troopers isn’t evenly applied.
According to the Post and Courier, Sergeant Whatley added: “It’s tough to walk away from something like this — something you love — but you have someone destroying it, and I can’t fix it, so I’m choosing to walk away.”
The Iraq veteran and 29-year member of the South Carolina Highway Patrol then tendered his resignation in the hearing, handing a letter to Director Leroy Smith. Smith, now in his second term, was first appointed by then-Governor Nikki Haley, now a member of the Trump Administration.
Sgt. Whatley says he was last cited for improperly handing over a traffic stop he made while off-duty. The drunk driver he stopped reportedly had two children in the car, according to WIS.
The resignation came during a heated South Carolina State House Oversight Committee hearing that saw state representatives ask questions about the conduct of Highway Patrol officers. South Carolina legislators are looking into why and how often State Troopers are “chauffeuring” civilians outside of instances of immediate need, like someone stranded on a roadside. The department says they collect no such data on those rides; troopers are to use their discretion in granting them.
At least one state representative, Rep. Eddie Tallon, says he knew of several instances of such rides, some of which went to private parties.
But Rep. Tallon also called out Smith, claiming there was “a problem” with leadership at the department. “You aren’t doing the citizens of South Carolina justice,” he lamented.