By University Communications
Assuring public safety is the top priority of Lt. Darrin Tolbert, a 12-year veteran of Appalachian State University’s police department.
University Police 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, University Police 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.”
Anyone can report incidents of concern in person, by phone or online. Anonymous reporting is available 24/7/365, even on holidays.