Local News

Durham Police Chief Defends Response to Officer's Fatal Crash

Posted March 4, 2007 12:10 p.m. EST

— Durham Police Chief Steven W. Chalmers told community leaders Sunday that he has been “saddened and disappointed” by media reports questioning his department’s response to the death of a police officer in a traffic accident last month.

In a statement e-mailed to community groups Sunday morning, Chalmers said investigators with the Durham Police Department’s Traffic Services Division thoroughly investigated the crash that killed Officer Charles Callemyn as he was traveling to assist another officer on a traffic stop Feb. 17. The nature of the investigation delayed its conclusion by several weeks, Chalmers said.

Chalmers said in his statement that the department was “open and forthright in telling the community what happened”, including releasing 911 recordings made after the accident.

The department also disclosed a previous accident involving Callemyn after discovering they had erroneously reported that he had no prior vehicle accidents. According to Chalmers, the prior incident was minor and was not turned into the department’s Professional Standards Division due to an oversight.

Addressing questions raised about a two-minute omission on the 911 tape, Chalmers said the tapes are voice-activated and silence isn’t recorded. Chalmers said that no portion of the tape had been erased and that the reason for the gap had been explained to members of the media when it was released.

Chalmers said Callemyn was “a fine officer” whom he is honored to have as a part of his department.

“Officer Callemyn was responding to help another officer in a potentially dangerous situation -- that’s what law enforcement officers do,” Chalmers said. “He had a tragic accident, an accident that could have happened to any one of us.”

Chalmers also thanked fellow law-enforcement personnel representing 36 departments from throughout the state who attended Callemyn’s funeral.

“They demonstrated the true spirit of the brotherhood and sisterhood of the emergency services profession,” Chalmers said.

Leaders of the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association previously expressed their disappointment that no Durham city leaders attended the Feb. 20 funeral. City leaders offered a variety of explanations for their absences, including prior commitments, work and illness.

"It wasn't our finest hour," Councilman Eugene Brown said afterwards.