Medlock: Fayetteville mistaken identity incident strengthens need for officer body cameras
Posted December 11, 2014
Fayetteville, N.C. — The recent incident of an off-duty Elizabethtown police officer who was mistaken as a suspect in a Fayetteville prescription forgery strengthens the need for officer-worn body cameras, Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock said in a statement Thursday.
His comment stems from a Dec. 2 incident at a Walgreens pharmacy at 110 Grove St. A pharmacist told police a man attempted to pass a forged prescription stolen from a Hope Mills doctor’s office.
Responding officers went to the pharmacy and found a man matching the pharmacist’s description standing outside at an automated movie dispenser, police said.
“As officers made contact with the individual at the Redbox, he became agitated and confrontational,” the department said in a statement. “Officers advised (the subject) that he was only being detained while they conducted the investigation and he had been positively identified by an employee of Walgreens.”
The man, identified as Willie Thompson, said he was an Elizabethtown police officer but did not have any law enforcement identification on him because he said officers were not allowed to carry their credentials outside their jurisdiction, Fayetteville police said.
Such a policy does not exist, said Elizabethtown Police Chief Robert Kinlaw, who added that Thompson, a patrol officer, joined the department in May.
“Our policy is officers are allowed and encouraged to carry their credentials, their badge or ID, at any time,” Kinlaw said.
Thompson, who was detained for five minutes, was released after investigators reviewed surveillance video from Walgreens, Fayetteville police said.
Fayetteville police’s internal affairs unit is reviewing the incident and is seeking any video of the encounter between officers and Thompson. Investigators said they haven’t been able to reach Thompson after multiple attempts. Thompson has threatened to sue Walgreens and the City of Fayetteville, police said.
“Chief Harold Medlock takes this allegation very seriously and this incident, which further demonstrates the need for officer worn body cameras,” the department said.
Medlock was out of town and unavailable for further comment Thursday.
The police chief’s statement comes on the heels of demands for officer-worn body cameras from protesters in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., after grand juries in both cities declined to indict two white officers in the deaths of two black men.
In response, President Barack Obama proposed spending $263 million on a plan that includes 50,000 body-worn cameras for officers. The effort would also create a new Body Worn Camera Partnership Program to provide a 50 percent match to states and localities for the cost and storage of body worn cameras.
The issue was the topic of discussion at a General Assembly forum on Wednesday, where members of the Legislative Black Caucus expect a bill to be filed requiring some, if not all, law enforcement officers in North Carolina to wear body cameras.