North Carolina Law allows a police chief or sheriff to provide law enforcement assistance to anoher agency when a request for assistance is made in writing. These requests are known as "mutual aid."
Mutual aid requests are generally made for a specific event such as a parade, sporting event, or festival. Mutual aid is not used for day-to-day activities. A few agreements are continuous, and provide for agencies to participate in long-term criminal investigations and task forces that cross jurisdictional and geographic boundaries.
The Greenville Police Department provides mutual aid assistance to law enforcement agencies around Pitt County on a regular basis. Also, Greenville receives aid from different agencies on a regular basis. Halloween is a good example of this situation.
Most law enforcement agencies in Pitt County have pre-signed mutual aid agreements with all other agencies in the county, so that written requests are not needed everytime another agency asks for help.
Sometimes a request will be made that is outside the realm of normal, day-to-day mutual aid. During the week of September 3-6, 2012, The Greenville Police Department will send between 15-20 police officers to assist the Charlotte Mecklenburg PD with the management of the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Nearly every major NC police department and NC sheriff's office will provide personnel to assist with that major event.
While in Charlotte, officers may be assigned to provide security for delegates, assist with traffic direction, monitor and protect demonstrators and speakers, and provide other security-related duties.
While providing mutual aid, a visiting law enforcement officer is authorized the same legal power and authority he would normally have if he were in his own jurisdiction. He also has the same immunities and protections he would normally have at his own agency. While providing assistance, an officer is under the command and authority of the requesting agency head.
The department providing the assistance generally pays the salaries and benefits of the officers it provides. There may be rare exceptions to this, such as when an Emergency Disaster Declaration is made by the State or Federal Governments.
In 1999, during Hurricane Floyd, Law enforcement officers from all over the state of NC came to Greenville for almost 20 days to assist the GPD with the management of safety and security details while the City was flooded from hurricane waters. Mutual aid assistance is a 2-way street, necessary to the continous functioning of a department that may be under stress or overwhelmed by logistical problems relating to a particular situation.
Mutual aid assistance allows an agency to successfully manage a critical event without undue costs, which would otherwise completely overwhelm a department's personnel and equipment resources.