Local News

Fayetteville Fields a Force of Civilians for the Streets

Posted April 16, 2007

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— If you have a fender-bender in Fayetteville, you might see flashing yellow lights instead of blue.

It's the first city in North Carolina to hire civilian crash investigators. The goal is to keep sworn officers from getting bogged down with minor accidents.

Officer Ralph Cascasan spent 26 years in the Air Force. He used to help investigate plane crashes. Now he's one of Fayetteville's five civilian crash investigators, responding to minor 10-50s—which are auto accidents to the uninitiated.

"It's so efficient that traffic is cleared so much quicker," Cascasan said.

He carries no gun, wears no badge. He drives a Caprice Classic with yellow lights.

Cascasan begins his day by checking in an starting business.

He is, he tells the dispatcher, 10-8 and 10-17 to a 10-87. 10-4?

Shortly after he’s 10-23 (on scene) at that 10-87: traffic lights out at Morganton and the All American Freeway.

He stands in the middle of the intersection and directs until the lights are fixed.

Sgt. Eric Dow said the program resulted from some simple math and some creative thinking.

“Calls for service keep going up every year. The population goes up every year. But we’re playing catch up, so we’re thinking outside the box: How can we better utilize our resources?”

Enter Cascasan and colleagues.

The five officers were selected from among 100 applicants, but they weren't just thrown out into the streets. They had to undergo five weeks of intensive training, including defensive tactics. Then they had seven weeks of on-the-job training.

They cannot issue citations. If they believe a driver needs a ticket, they call a sworn officer.

Later, Cascasan has a 10-50—an accident, a pickup truck versus a Buick.

The littlest fender-benders can bend people out of shape. Part of Cascasan's’s role is to defuse those situations.

"There's not a lot of damage. I tried to talk to the guy, but he didn't want to talk," one of the drivers tells Cascasan. That’s OK.

"That's what we try to do is separate them," Cascasan explains. Safety is the protocol, whether it's run-in or a light out.

"It worked fine,” Cascasan says. “Makes me happy."

The five civilian investigators work from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m Monday through Friday. Fayetteville is the only city the state allows to do this pilot program. If it's successful, permission might extend to all departments.


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  • strolling bones Apr 20, 2007

    If you are on private property i.e. the parking lot of a store....police will not issue a citation. This reminds me of the days of constables.

  • oldrebel Apr 17, 2007

    re: Independent Thinker (i like that handle)....anyway, re: "Cops are rarely called in civil litigation involving traffic accidents.

    A police report is inadmissable for the purpose of proving liability. Typically, a cop's testimony amounts to hearsay, and therefore not useful." My assumption was in error then, thanx. I had always thought such reports were used to determine liablility after accidents when there was a , err...difference of opinions. Again, thanx for the heads up. Good thing about this forum, we always have an oportunity to learn new things.

  • independent_thinker Apr 17, 2007

    oldrebel: Cops are rarely called in civil litigation involving traffic accidents.

    A police report is inadmissable for the purpose of proving liability. Typically, a cop's testimony amounts to hearsay, and therefore not useful.

  • Devilsadvocate Apr 17, 2007

    When is an auto accident not someone's fault thereby requiring a citation? I'm skeptical that this idea will really help. What if there's a dispute between the drivers? Why don't they hire more officers?

  • spiritwarriorwoman Apr 17, 2007

    Great idea! And Hondaman they're not trying to change a light bulb, they're trying to determine those situations which need a real cop vs. those times which do not.

    PLUS, should there be an injury accident, they can probably get medical assistance there faster too, thereby perhaps, saving a life.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • BEACH Apr 17, 2007

    Fayetteville is real SMART to do this, guess they could not
    think of anyway to send money. Maybe the cops will be able to
    GET A little work done now.

  • AngelEyes Apr 17, 2007

    Hondaman; It's not necessary to have negative ideas toward what it obviuosly a positive project. These civic-minded individuals are to be applauded for their attempts to be contributing to the community - instead of being like others who want to sit back and complain about all that is "wrong" without doing anything useful to help out.

  • MajorLeagueinfidel Apr 17, 2007

    This seems like a great program....take the storms yesterday. Many Police Departments end up having to pull detectives out on the street to direct traffic and take wrecks. Very few accidents end up in court and so what if they do, then the investigator testifies to what they saw..doesnt take a cop to do that...a majority of accidents do not recieve tickets making Cops not necessary. Look at New York City at rush hour..civilian traffic personnel all over the place to make traffic run smooth.

  • Derrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Apr 17, 2007

    An officer can respond, write a ticket and be gone in five minutes. I don't see how having a second officer would be "double dipping" anyways. It will be interesting to see how this goes. It should definitely leave more officers available for higher priority calls.

  • Capital Punishment Stops Crime Apr 17, 2007

    Seems like a good idea. I see lights out and traffic accidents every day and most times, no police in sight. It would make sense to have extra help with the easy stuff. It's kind of like a security guard at a store. There are not enough police to guard everything, so you hire a security guard. They don't carry guns or police badges or arrest people. If they believe someone deserves a ticket or to be arrested, they call a sworn officer. The program could work well.