SC Mayor Stops Police Chases
Wellford, SC (WSPA) -The Mayor of Wellford is defending her policy which bans police officers in that city from chasing suspects. Sallie Peake says the policy also includes vehicle chases along with pursuits on foot.
A memo issued on September 2nd from Peake to all Wellford officers reads:
"As of this date, there are to be no more foot chases when a suspect runs. I do not want anyone chasing after any suspects whatsoever."
WSPA first reported the mandate on Wednesday after an anonymous citizen faxed a copy of the memo to our newsroom. Peake was out of town and unavailable for comment. On Friday, reporter Chris Cato caught up with her in her office and questioned her about the origin of the policy. Peake says she issued the mandate because several officers have been injured during chases, driving up insurance costs for the town.
"The officers are costing us more money on insurance than most citizens here in the city of Wellford are even earning," says Peake.
She says the city is paying out $20,000 annually in workers' compensation claims, much of it due to the police force. In July, two officers wrecked their cruisers while chasing suspects and had to go to the hospital for minor treatment. The police chief says three officers have been injured during foot chases in the last two years.
Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright says the policy prevents police from upholding the law-a direct violation of their constitutional oath.
"If a bank robber or a drunk driver or a shoplifter or somebody with a warrant runs on foot, it's our obligation to do what we can do to bring them to justice," says Wright.
But when we asked Peake about her order impeding an officer from stopping a crime in progress, she became defensive and irate. The conversation went as follows:
Reporter: "Are you telling your officers if they witness a crime - they witness someone commit a crime on someone else and they're ten yards away - they can't go stop that person?"
Peake: "Is that in there?" (referring to policy)
Reporter: "It says no chases whatsoever."
Peake: "Well, that's what I said, no chases, didn't I? I didn't say nothing about a crime. If you see a crime, this that and the other -"
Reporter: "Well, that's what a chase is - "
Peake: "Well, I told them no chase on foot, and (the police chief) know exactly what I mean, so you're trying to twist what I -"
Reporter: "No, I'm not. You said no chases. No chases means no chases."
Peake: (claps hands) "You got you a story, thank God! You are so sweet! You got you a story on a woman in Wellford! Hallelujah! I'm so proud of you, Mr. Cato!"
Click here to see the entire interview.
Wellford Police Chief Chris Guy has told his officers to abide by the policy. He says they can still protect the public.
"Just because a suspect may run does not mean we can't identify them, sign warrants, and catch them later," says Guy.
But Sheriff Wright says when a suspect gets away, there is always the chance he could hurt someone before officers catch up with him.
Peake says that won't happen in Wellford.
Here's hoping the arm of the law really is long.
Click here for the VIDEO.
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