GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes has announced changes to his department's pursuit policy after a deadly crash in September.
The revised policy explains when a pursuit is justified and gives a deputy several factors to consider before giving chase. It also says deputies can choose not to chase or end a pursuit at any point in time.
The policy states that deputies should only engage in pursuit if the immediate need to pursue or apprehend a suspect outweighs the risk of injury or harm to the public that could result from the pursuit. It says deputies should consider factors like speed and time of day, which is consistent with the old policy, but it also adds new considerations like streetlights, stop signs and the danger to the occupants in the suspect vehicle.
Police say 5 people were killed when a suspect car fleeing from a Sheriff's deputy ran a red light and crashed into another vehicle at the intersection of Battleground Avenue and New Garden Road around 11:30 p.m. September 30th. The two women in the victim car were Stephanie Warshauer, 32, and Allie Bolick, 29.
In a release sent out Tuesday morning, Sheriff Barnes writes in part:
"We remain, first and foremost, mindful of the loss of Stephanie Warshauer and Alyssa Bolick and the terrible sadness this tragedy has brought to their Families. This is particularly true for those who wear the badge and uniform of this Sheriff's Office because our primary and most fundamental mission is to protect the lives of the public."
The Sheriff goes on to say the night of the accident, Deputy Lineback followed all procedures and North Carolina state law. The Sheriff has maintained that since the initial investigation.
Attorney Drew Brown, representing the families of Stephanie Warshauer and Allie Bolick, called on the Sheriff to make changes after the crash. He released this statement Tuesday morning:
The families of Stephanie Warshauer and Allie Bolick would like to express their gratitude to Sheriff Barnes and the entire Sheriff's department for coming together and implementing positive, real change in this chase policy. Our concerns have always been with the safety of Guilford County residents and the brave law enforcement officers who protect them on a daily basis. We feel that these policy revisions accomplish that and appreciate their commitment to adhere to these new policies.
Sheriff Barnes asserts that prior to these changes, their policy was fully compliant with North Carolina state law and maintains less aggressive pursuit policies will not make streets safer; it will just embolden criminals to try and evade police pursuit. But after weeks of reviewing the policy since the accident they've chosen to update their policy.
Another part of the change mandates all current and new deputies will have to go through specific training for pursuits. And that chases will only commence if it involves a deputy that has gone through that training.
Stephanie Warshauer was a member of Temple Emanuel. Rabbi Fred Guttman knew her for 23 years.
"The bottom line is that there should not be deaths like this that happen," Guttman explains.
Since the accident he's also been calling for change to the Sheriff's pursuit policy. He says the revisions don't detail all the changes he'd like to see, but it's a start.
"I do think that the families and I both feel that that is some sort of legacy because this tragedy should never ever happen again."
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