Wilmington, NC – Bad drivers in unincorporated parts of New Hanover County need no longer fear the logo of the Wilmington Police Department.
A three-year-old mutual aid agreement giving the WPD the power to enforce traffic and other laws outside city limits is being terminated by Sheriff Sid Causey.
In a letter to Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous dated April 9th, Causey blamed the termination on a variety of complaints his office received from motorists. Elaborating in an interview Monday, Causey said his office started getting calls "about city officers way out in the county."
Causey said he understands many people were simply mad about getting tickets, but that one woman went on to complain about the officers' behavior.
"She started getting into their manner of dealing with it, and they were rude and not very professional," Causey said. "After several of those calls I just wrote [Evangelous] a letter and said, 'I'm going to have to terminate that.'"
However, Evangelous denies knowing of any complaints and says the sheriff has never given his department specifics, despite requesting more information in an April 25th meeting, according to a letter sent to the Sheriff Monday.
Evangelous says his officers have responded to more than 400 incidents in unincorporated New Hanover County, and written 74 tickets, since the agreement took effect three years ago.
At a press conference Monday, Evangelous said he is saddened by Causey's decision to terminate the agreement.
Without a mutual aid agreement, "we have no police powers anywhere outside the one-mile [Extraterritorial Jurisdiction] of the city," Evangelous said, "we're no better than the average citizen."
When asked why he hadn't discussed his concerns before terminating the agreement, Causey said "Chief Evangelous made it very clear in the last year or so that he's been here he really does not care about working together with us." Causey went on to list a number of offers to combine forces he said the police department had rebuffed, including combining drug and gang units.
Evangelous said he believes relationships between his officers and deputies in the field remain strong. "They will continue to work together," he said.
Unless rescinded by Sheriff Causey, the mutual aid agreement will expire May 15.