Eastern Carolina Trooper Fired Over Lost Hat

A North Carolina state trooper who said he was fired because his bosses thought he lied about the fate of his $45 hat is fighting his dismissal.

Thomas Wetherington, 22, told The News & Observer of Raleigh that losing his job in a misunderstanding about his hat is especially galling considering the kind of misconduct other troopers have committed without getting fired.

A review committee ruled in September that Wetherington should be reinstated and the conduct of the supervisor who pushed for his removal be reviewed. But the Highway Patrol hasn't put Wetherington back on the highway and he is awaiting a hearing before a judge who can make the patrol put him back on the force.

Patrol spokesman Capt. Everett Clendenin wouldn't talk to the newspaper about the case, citing the pending legal action.

Wetherington's saga began an a blustery night in March when he pulled over a vehicle towing a boat on U.S. 70 in Craven County. While seizing guns and alcohol, he set his hat on his patrol car, then heard it tumble down the asphalt in the dark. He returned later and looked for it for two hours without success.

Wetherington had to file a form to get a new hat, and he wrote that it blew away and was likely run over. But another trooper pulled over the same driver two weeks later, and the man had Wetherington's hat, which he said he picked up after the trooper left. Wetherington's name and phone number were in the hatband, but the driver never called.

The Highway Patrol ruled Wetherington violated its code of conduct, which requires troopers to always tell the truth.

The agency has had plenty of trouble with troopers following the conduct code. Since 1998, the patrol has dealt with at least 27 cases of sexual misconduct by troopers either on or off duty. In several cases, those involved were not fired, including a trooper who received a five-day suspension in 2002 after he was caught repeatedly having sex on duty in and on his parked patrol car. On one occasion, the trooper inadvertently left his handgun behind, where children later found it, the newspaper reported.

Those stories frustrate Wetherington, who said he just wants to get back out on the road, serving the people.

"I bleed black and silver," said Wetherington, noting the colors on his hat and the patrol's uniform. "This was my life, and they took it away from me. All I want is to get it back."


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by jt on Jan 20, 2010 at 08:23 PM
    Check out the Raleigh N&O for more Trooper miscconduct
  • by amy Location: duplin on Dec 2, 2009 at 05:12 PM
    why don't all of yall run for president?
  • by me Location: craven on Dec 2, 2009 at 09:25 AM
    It was just a hat....would he have done the same over a pistol, a round of ammo or pepper spray? I do agree sanctions or disciplinary procedures should fit the infraction
  • by Anonymous on Nov 30, 2009 at 04:47 PM
    Ya know. I want their help when I need it but I do look at them cross eyed now. Troopers poopers. Grow up! A freak'n hat? GET RID OF THE TROOPER THAT FIRED THE MAN OVER THE HAT!!! WHO GAVE THAT BUTTHEAD AUTHORITY? If you can pardon BIG CHEATERS you can pardon the fella that lost his hat. Im sure they have another one he could buy!!!! DUMMIES.
  • by L WORD Location: HAVELOCK on Nov 30, 2009 at 07:05 AM
    THIS TROOPER HAS DONR NOTHING WRONG. BUT FOR THE OTHERS WE NEED TO PUT HIDDEN RECORDERS OR VIDEO CAMN TO TAKE THESE OTHER TROOPERS OFF OUR RAOD AND SUR THE STATE FOR LEAVING THESE KINDA OF TROOPERS ON OUR STREETS
  • by mary Location: edenton on Nov 29, 2009 at 01:47 PM
    Leave this man alone. Maybe he wouldn't participate in the sex in patrol cars and the stalking of women that the other do. Give him back his job and investigate his superiors.
  • by lisa Location: WASHINGTON on Nov 29, 2009 at 01:46 PM
    Troopers are a mess. I know a friend who was constantly pulled over by the same trooper. He kept asking her for a date. He would hold her over in traffic stops and hang around her neighborhood. He had other troopers trying to set them up. Thank God he was transferred. He later was charged with domestic violence against his wife. Real creepy.
  • by Smarter than dayquon Location: Kinston on Nov 29, 2009 at 07:24 AM
    Come on give me a break you know this is bull crap sounds like the higher up had it in for him. Maybe because he didn't kiss their butts... Oh by the way I picked this name because I am smart enough to spell.
  • by Anonymous on Nov 28, 2009 at 06:46 PM
    Oh, those boys say its over a hat...yeah, believe that. Cheaters and jerks on the force get away with things you would not believe but this trooper loses his hat. No. It was not over a stupid hat. Someone just had it out for him. Fire the dummy that fired him!
  • by HOBO JOE on Nov 27, 2009 at 10:21 PM
    Over a hat, You kidding me coach??
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