WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – A man, who identified himself as a Wilmington police officer, dialed 911 for a ride home after he “had a little bit too much to drink.”
According to a 911 recording at around 2:45 a.m. on July 5, a caller who said he was Officer McCarty requested that an officer from district five, which covers the eastern part of Wilmington, pick him up from near the intersection of Wrightsville Avenue and Military Cutoff Road.
In the call, McCarty told the dispatcher he is pulled over on the side of the road. You can also hear his truck’s hazard lights in the background.
“I may have had a little bit too much to drink tonight and I need one of them to respond to Wrightsville and Military. I just want to make sure I get home safely,” McCarty stated in the call.
According to Wilmington Police, Officer Christian McCarty, 24, has been with the department since 2014.
A spokesperson for the department responded with this statement:
When our agency became aware of the July 5th incident involving one of our officers, we immediately conducted our own internal investigation and took the appropriate action. State law prohibits us from discussing the specifics of an employee investigation, however we are committed to ensuring the public that we will continue to hold our officers to the highest standards and make sure that this standard is not compromised.
A public records request reveals no disciplinary action was taken against McCarty.
The dispatcher told McCarty she will “get somebody out there for you.”
When asked if deputies in his department were encouraged to call 911 for a ride home if they had had too much to drink, New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon said “we do not do that.”
McMahon said when a citizen called 911 for a ride home after too much to drink, protocol is to respond, if dispatched, but to help them find an Uber, a taxi, or a friend to get them home. He added his deputies were not allowed to take people home.
The call came on one of the biggest nights of the year for DWIs, the July 4th holiday. Members of law enforcement are often spending part of the holiday cracking down on intoxicated drivers.
“I’m relieved the 911 system was evidently used to get an unsafe driver off the road,” said County Commissioner Woody White. “But if a patrol officer was diverted to be a taxi driver instead of law enforcement officer, then further investigation is warranted.”
District Attorney Ben David said his office was not made aware of this incident by WPD, to his knowledge. He plans to do some investigating to find out what happened.
Attorneys we spoke with said they’ve had clients “prosecuted for less.” The attorneys spoke with us on the condition of anonymity, fearing negative repercussions for speaking out against the police department. One attorney called how this was handled “absurd.”
Emergency Communications Coordinator Charles Smith said McCarty was not misusing 911 resources when he made the call.
“Absolutely not. The fact that they are calling, needing a ride, whether they don’t have numbers for a cab or what have you,” Smith said. “Again, the action that is taken in the field is up to the unit or agency that has responded. The resources are there for the safety of everyone in New Hanover County. It is best to reach out when in doubt.”
Smith also said McCarty did not misuse the 911 system, citing state statute.
“I don’t interpret it to be misusing the system, under NC law,” Smith said. “I think the request for public safety assistance was clear in the call.”
We called the number McCarty gave to dispatchers.
A man who identified himself as Christian McCarty answered the phone, but when a reporter identified themselves, the call was disconnected.
We’re working to learn more about this developing story.