10/01/07 — New first sergeant takes over Goldsboro post

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New first sergeant takes over Goldsboro post

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on October 1, 2007 1:45 PM

Dealing with speeding drivers and accidents is about the same today as it was in 1989 -- it's the way things are handled afterward that's different.

So says Jerry Burton, the new first sergeant at the Wayne County Highway Patrol office in Goldsboro. He began his career in 1989 as a Raleigh trooper.

"The core functions of a state trooper are the same," Burton said. "But technology has changed the way that we work."

Burton would know -- he had been serving an administrative role in Raleigh where he purchased and planned for new technology, he said.

Programs where troopers can transmit data electronically speed up not just the investigation process, Burton said, but also how quickly roadways see safety improvements.

When accidents occur, troopers send data on to the state's Division of Motor Vehicles, which uses it for tasks like planning traffic lights and installing guardrails, the first sergeant said.

One new program is eCrash, similar to eCitation, which allows troopers to use a computer form to fill out citations. The eCrash variation allows troopers to do the same with accident investigation reports, Burton said.

"(With eCrash) in the future, the trooper will be able to enter that information and transmit it directly to DMV," the first sergeant said.

Troopers are also much more involved with computers these days -- many with in-car laptops they can use to get information about vehicles and people driving them, Burton said.

That's quite different from when Burton began work in 1989, he said.

"I remember the days you had to take a report, you had two sheets of carbon paper -- you had to write everything out by hand," Burton said. "They were just starting to put copier machines into the district office."

That meant troopers had to be quite diligent about their paperwork -- or face making not just one correction, but two more on the carbon copies, he said.

Besides helping to implement new technology, Burton has the day-to-day duties of running a local office of 14 troopers and two other sergeants.

One of the biggest challenges, Burton says, is keeping the unit effective with those kinds of numbers in a county that spans 65 miles. Troopers are responsible for all the roads in unincorporated areas outside city or town limits.

Another challenge is keeping his troopers safe, Burton said. One big issue for investigating troopers today is a medical one.

"Not only do you have to worry about guns and knives, you also have to worry about bloodborne pathogens," Burton said.

Suspects carrying hypodermic needles on their persons and blood on an accident scene can subject troopers to whatever germs suspects or victims suffered from, the first sergeant said.

"They see you and stick that needle in that pocket, you run your hand down the side of their leg, and you could get a needle stick," Burton said.

"You don't know what's associated with that needle -- not only the drug that's in there, more the virus that could be on or in that needle," he continued.

The patrol provides strong warnings and guidance on matters keeping troopers safe from germs, and has been doing so for more than a decade, he said.

"You have to be very observant," he said. "But you have to be conscious in your actions as well -- you have to ask questions. You have to be able to see through what people tell you."

Burton lives in Raleigh with his wife, Loretta, and his two daughters, Kelsey and Lindsey.

The family's home is on the market, however, and Burton says he plans a move to the Goldsboro area shortly.

"The challenge is there with the number of personnel that we have to provide the service and the coverage that people expect," Burton said.