Success of civilian crash investigator program could lead to statewide law

A program that has shown success in Wilmington could be rolled out in other cities across the state.
Published: Jun. 21, 2023 at 5:55 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A program that has shown success in Wilmington could be rolled out in other cities across the state. It involves civilians who respond to minor crashes in place of a police officer.

The Wilmington Police Department started their program with civilian crash investigators back in 2007, it’s just now that other cities across North Carolina want to implement it into their department as well.

Having civilian crash investigators can take the workload off of full-time police officers, especially for departments that are short-staffed and already trying to make ends meet.

In 2021, Wilmington reported nearly 7,000 traffic accidents and civilian investigators responded to about 30% of them. This has saved sworn police officers about 400 hours per year responding to other calls that need their attention.

Stanley Pollock has been on the job for 17 years and says that in one day he can respond to up to 10 minor accidents.

“The work I’ve taken in on an eight-hour period, I took 10 wrecks. So, that’s just one person taking 10 wrecks and that would be 10 wrecks that a uniformed officer would have to respond to, which takes him away from responding to crimes that he actually would do,” said Pollock, a Wilmington Police Department civilian crash investigator.

Pollock is one out of the five investigators on WPD and takes care of everything from fender benders to broken-down cars.

“If you get into an accident in the city, you’re going to see one of the five people who are working here at Wilmington police department, you’ll see us,” said Pollock.

With over a decade on the job, he’s surprised to see that House Bill 410 is just now going into law and allowing all cities in North Carolina to employ trained civilian investigators.

Given the department’s high call volume, civilian investigators free up officers from responding to minor accidents and it can be a big relief.

New hires must undergo training created by the North Carolina Justice Academy followed by at least four weeks out in the field with a police officer. Civilians would not be allowed to carry weapons, write citations or arrest anyone and their employment wouldn’t replace or reduce the number of officers in a police department.

As for Pollock, he’s glad his work with Wilmington PD was used as a key example to show the program works and helped turn the bill into law, but most of all he’s proud of the impact he makes every day.

“I enjoy my job. I mean, if I had to do it all over again, I’ll pick this job,” said Pollock.

The bill appeared to have no opposition and passed the general assembly last Thursday. Now it just needs a signature from Governor Roy Cooper to become law. If signed, the legislation will go into effect immediately.