Assuring public safety is the top priority of Lt. Darrin Tolbert, a 12-year veteran of Appalachian State University’s police department.
The Appalachian Police Department serves the campus community in a variety of ways. Each day, its officers and staff engage in a multi-step plan that combines educational programs with law enforcement measures to keep campus safe. In addition to patrol duties, any given day could include safety training and drills; public safety presentations to classes or campus groups or organizations; responding to vehicle accidents, property damage reports, safety concerns or violations of state law or campus policies; and monitoring and assisting campus and community members during campus events, which attract thousands of visitors to campus each year.
While Appalachian and Boone are lauded for having low crime rates, the Appalachian Police Department is prepared for more extreme circumstances as well. Last summer, while on patrol, Tolbert’s quick response to protect citizens and enforce the law saved both pedestrians and passengers in a vehicle from injury and possibly worse.
Shortly before 8 p.m. June 27, 2016, Tolbert was monitoring his radio as a Boone Police officer started to give chase after attempting to stop a vehicle for a speeding violation. When the speeding vehicle entered the university campus, Tolbert recalled, the driver’s speed and erratic driving posed a danger to pedestrians walking along the campus sidewalks. As the driver continued to elude police, Tolbert maneuvered his patrol car between the speeding vehicle and the pedestrians, a dramatic move that stopped the vehicle and saved the pedestrians from harm.
Tolbert realized his efforts had also prevented serious injury to the occupants, an adult female and three youths, riding inside the fleeing driver’s vehicle.
In an interview with local media after the event, Tolbert downplayed his role, saying, “It was just a split second decision along with great teamwork from all agencies involved.”
Car chases are not the norm in Boone or nearby areas, but Tolbert stresses the importance of remaining alert and working together with the citizenry to keep the campus and community safe.
“We as law enforcement officers are here to protect and serve the communities within our jurisdictions. We are a small number compared to the citizens. Citizens, whether they are students, staff or faculty, can contribute to public safety by doing many things,” Tolbert said.
“I believe the most important thing the public can do to contribute to community safety is report any suspicious activity or possible crime without delay. We cannot be everywhere at once, so it is very important that our citizens be our eyes.”
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About the Appalachian State University Police Department
The Appalachian State University Police Department supports the university’s academic mission by working in partnership with the campus community to prevent crime, solve problems and improve the quality of life on campus. The department’s philosophy is one of proactive community engagement, collaboration and customer service, holding the safety and health of Appalachian’s community members as its top priorities. State-certified police officers, security officers and civilian employees comprise the department, and this team of professionals helps to create and maintain an inclusive sense of belonging for all members of the Appalachian Community — students, faculty, staff and visitors. Additionally, through its efforts, the department aims to be a leader in innovative public safety ideas and strategies. Learn more at https://police.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.