Local News

After Media Inquiry, Durham Officer Charged With Speeding

Posted January 29, 2008 12:15 p.m. EST
Updated January 30, 2008 3:19 p.m. EST

— The Highway Patrol charged a Durham police officer with speeding 84 mph in a 45-mph zone Tuesday night in connection with a weekend traffic stop.

Officer Anthony Harris was off duty when he was stopped at about 7 p.m. Saturday on Junction Road near Club Boulevard, police said.

Trooper David Smith said Harris had been speeding, and he smelled alcohol on Harris' breath, said Lt. Everett Clendenin, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol. After administering several sobriety tests, Smith allowed Harris to go and didn't charge him with driving while impaired, Clendenin said.

"(He) formed the opinion this guy was not impaired," Clendenin said. "He did smell alcohol, but he didn't feel the impairment rose to the level of violating North Carolina law."

At the time, no speeding charge was filed against Harris either, Clendenin said, declining to elaborate.

In a statement issued Tuesday night, however, Clendenin said Harris was charged with driving 84 mph in a 45-mph zone and that the Highway Patrol will continue to investigate the officer's actions.

After the traffic stop, Smith called Harris' supervisor to report the incident. Clendenin said it's not the Highway Patrol's policy to inform other law enforcement agencies when an officer is pulled over.

"He said he felt compelled to let Durham police know he'd stopped an officer for speeding and drinking," he said. "Some people may think (it's favoritism). I will say the fact that the trooper went the extra mile to contact a supervisor lets me know (that), had this off-duty officer been impaired, he would've been charged."

Highway Patrol officials initially said Smith, who has been with the agency for eight years, did nothing wrong in the case. But Clendenin said Tuesday afternoon that the agency was reviewing his actions after media inquires into the incident.

The Durham Police Department opened an internal investigation into Harris' actions, but the officer wasn't placed on leave or administrative duty as a result of the traffic stop, Chief Jose Lopez said.

"We're going to look at the totality of the circumstances to see what happened and go from there and see what action is appropriate," Lopez said.