Cops could stop responding to minor traffic accidents in NC, under bipartisan reform
Minor traffic accidents might no longer bring a police response, under a bipartisan bill that passed the North Carolina legislature Wednesday.
The bill would allow — but not require — cities anywhere in the state to hire civilian traffic investigators to respond to fender-benders and other minor wrecks with no injuries.
The idea is to free up police officers to focus on more serious issues, especially as law enforcement agencies nationwide report difficulties in hiring enough officers to stay fully staffed.
Traffic investigators wouldn’t need to pass the same requirements as uniformed police officers. That will make them easier to hire. But it also means they won’t be allowed to write tickets or make arrests, and they’d need to call for police backup if needed.
Wilmington and Fayetteville have been using civilian traffic investigators for nearly 20 years, after the legislature gave them permission in the mid 2000s. Despite those cities reporting that it’s gone successfully, the legislature has resisted requests from other cities to do the same — until now.
Republican leadership in the General Assembly opposed the idea as recently as last year when Raleigh, Durham and several other large, Democratic-leaning cities asked for it.
But the idea gained a key backer this year in Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, a former High Point police chief.
“Virtually every law enforcement agency is losing people, losing employees, or failing to fill vacancies they have,” Faircloth said earlier this year. “So they’re looking for ways to keep enough action on the street, if you will.”
His bill, House Bill 140, passed unanimously in the Senate last week and 100-6 in the House on Wednesday. The opponents were five Republicans and one Democrat, Charlotte Rep. Carolyn Logan, a retired state trooper.
None publicly explained their opposition before the vote Wednesday. In the past there have been private grumblings among some opponents that the proposal is too close to other ideas — such as sending mental health specialists instead of police officers to 911 calls involving suicidal people — that critics view as part of a “defund the police” agenda pushed by progressive activists.