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Medlock: Fayetteville mistaken identity incident strengthens need for officer body cameras

Posted December 11, 2014

Some Hoke County sheriff's deputies next week will begin wearing lightweight cameras that record their every move in an effort by the local sheriff to improve community relations.
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— 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.

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  • kermit60 Dec 15, 2014

    All this has reached a 100% on the stupid meter ! So now the cops are suing the cops? Just by the nature of their job many encounters with law enforcement are confrontational. When people want them they are not there fast enough. When they are giving tickets or arresting criminals they are being unreasonable or agressive. Arrest the criminals unless it's my child. The media and citizens take weeks or months to decide the decision an officer had to make in a second was the wrong one. I wish they all would quit and we could deal with the murderers, rapists and criminals the old fashioned way. But then most of the complainers are to passive or incapeable of doing anything for themselves.

  • iopsyc Dec 12, 2014

    "Thompson has threatened to sue Walgreens and the City of Fayetteville, police said."

    That seems petty. First off, Walgreens wasn't responsible for your interaction with the Fayetteville PD. Secondly, as an officer, unless something really bad went down, why would you make another officer's job harder by suing?

  • Lightfoot3 Dec 12, 2014

    "Thompson has threatened to sue Walgreens and the City of Fayetteville" - article


    I'll give him a dollar for every minute he was detained. :)


    "bringing embarrassment upon the department with his lying." - stymieindurham


    Given he is relatively new to the force, perhaps he was mistaken instead of lying.


    "Thats the whole point.....his "behavior" may not be what the fayetteville cops say it was" - Grand Union


    Exactly! Did he really become "agitated and confrontational" or did the police escalate things with their behavior? Body cams would help answer those kind of questions.


    "Camera would protect the Cops from the Public and also the Public from the Cops" - Grand Union

    Bingo! I suspect ulterior motives from anyone opposed to cameras on the cops.

  • Grand Union Dec 12, 2014

    View quoted thread


    Thats the whole point.....his "behavior" may not be what the fayetteville cops say it was.............Cameras would remove a lot of the "he said, she said".

    Camera would protect the Cops from the Public and also the Public from the Cops..............

  • stymieindurham Dec 12, 2014

    This is an absolute wast of time. IF the guy was an off duty officer he should have know how to act when approached by officers. If I were the chief I would think very seriously about "my" officer's actions and bringing embarrassment upon the department with his lying.