COLUMBIA, S.C. – The mayor of a small South Carolina town said Monday she banned her police officers from chasing suspects after an officer suffered a foot injury while pursuing a man with drugs.
"There are to be no more foot chases when a suspect runs. I do not want anyone chasing any suspects whatsoever," Wellford Mayor Sallie Peake wrote in her ban several weeks ago.
When a WSPA-TV reporter asked her whether the policy would impede officers from stopping crime, she became defensive and chastised him before answering in mock praise.
"You got you a story, thank God! You are so sweet! You got you a story on a woman in Wellford! Hallelujah! I'm so proud of you," she told the reporter Friday, clapping.
Peake said she issued the order after the town had to pay workers compensation for an officer out of work several days for chasing a "guy who had some crack on him — a piece of crack on him."
"There was no crime, no such thing as a crime," Peake said. "If he was breaking into somebody's house, to me that would be a crime, or if he was stealing something. ... I wish they would get whoever's selling it. Then that would be worth chasing somebody down for."
The mayor of 14 years said officers also totaled two town-issued cars in July, though her order applies only to foot chases. She said she doesn't know what the officers were doing when they crashed, other than driving too fast, but the town had to buy replacement vehicles. She said details could be obtained from the state Highway Patrol, which could not immediately locate the reports.
"We're a small town. We can only do so much with so much money," Peake said, adding the Spartanburg County town of roughly 2,100 people includes many senior citizens on fixed incomes. "The city is in safe shape."
"You don't have to get out here and hurt yourself to solve a crime," she said she told her eight officers.
She also chastised an Associated Press reporter by asking whether it was only OK for a man to issue orders to officers.
Peake, who described herself as "in her 70s," said her police chief could provide details on the accidents, but he could not be reached.
Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright did not immediately return a message Monday. He told WSPA the policy prevents police from upholding the law.
"If a bank robber or a drunk driver or a shoplifter or somebody with a warrant runs on foot, it's our obligation to do what we can do to bring them to justice," Wright said.
Wellford Police Chief Chris Guy told the station his officers can still protect the policy under the policy.
"Just because a suspect may run does not mean we can't identify them, sign warrants, and catch them later," he said.