RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Several cities, including Raleigh and Durham, have their eyes on a couple of bills this legislative session that would impact how officers respond to crashes.
In April, CBS 17 first reported city council members in Durham discussed the topic of sending civilian crash investigators to minor traffic crashes. City officials said part of their concern regarded the issues of staffing within the police department, as well as an increase in violent crimes within the city.
State Senator Mike Woodard of Durham, a sponsor of the bill, said ultimately it will make better use of the city’s resources.
“It allows the people who were specifically trained to do this job to concentrate on the minor traffic accidents and it frees up our sworn officers to do other things related to crime or other investigations,” Woodard said.
Woodard also said the members of this unit would be paid city employees that would undergo additional training. During a crash, he said they would be able to assess, monitor, make reports and request help if needed.
However, Woodard said that these investigators would not be able to hold a badge, a weapon or give citations as officers do.
Raleigh Police Department Captain Tim Tomczak is also in support of the bill.
“We looked into this back in 2007 and saw that we would have to get some legislation passed and felt that that wasn’t the right time,” Tomczak said. “But now, with a shortage of officers, a need for extra staffing, this is the right time to get this done.”
Tomczak said the Raleigh Police Department sees about 25,000-27,000 crashes per year, but this year he anticipates that number to be closer to 29,000. He said they currently have 120 vacancies.
When asked how the extra support would impact safety, Tomczak and Woodard agreed that it would ultimately improve their response times of officers, safety and boost officer morale.
If the bill passes, city officials said the civilian crash investigators will be easily identifiable with uniforms and vehicles that will be different from officers.