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Fayetteville mulls written consent policy for vehicle searches

Posted September 21, 2011

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— The Fayetteville Police Department is unclear about the direction the City Council is going with a new proposed policy that would require officers to get written consent from drivers before searching a vehicle, Lt. Chris Davis said Wednesday.

Davis defended the department's current search policy, saying it keeps guns and drugs off the streets. He said he wonders what the changes will mean for patrol officers trying to keep the community safe.

"We're actually a little confused as to what direction City Council wants us to go," he said.

The suggested plan, which is already in use by the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office and state Highway Patrol, addresses concerns from groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People about racial profiling. The group's local chapter contends that police officers in Fayetteville are more likely to search vehicles of black drivers.

"There is a perception in the community, black and white, that is damaging the reputation of our police department. We have people mistrusting our policemen and that mistrust is growing," said Councilman Bill Crisp. 

An analysis of traffic stops over the past two years by the Fayetteville Observer seems to support the NAACP's contention. Black drivers account for three out of every four searches, the newspaper reported.

Lt. Chris Davis Fayetteville officers 'confused' by vehicle search policy changes

The department's current search policy only requires verbal consent from a driver to search a vehicle. Davis said the policy is in line with federal and state laws, but Mayor Tony Chavonne said Wednesday that city leaders would like to see officers go one step further. 

"We think it helps make sure citizens know their rights and allows the police department to continue to request consent searches," Chavonne said. "It seemed to be a good fit."

If an officer has probable cause, such as the smell of drugs or alcohol, no consent is necessary for a search. Otherwise, Davis said, officers use a number of criteria to deem a driver's behavior suspicious. Race, he said, is never one of those criteria.

"Absolutely not. The chief doesn't condone that. The department doesn't condone that. I think we've had a total thus far, that I'm aware of, of nine bias-based policing complaints," he said.

None of those complaints were substantiated, he said. 

The policy changes could take effect in the next couple weeks, after City Council formally votes it into place. Chavonne said he believes there's consensus among city leaders that the changes are needed and he believes the plan will be approved.

14 Comments

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  • kermit60 Sep 23, 2011

    It is sad that the only reason they are changing anything is that a certain group complained. Race should have nothing to do with it.It is either legal or not. If not then it should be stoped.

  • kermit60 Sep 23, 2011

    If they have no probable cause then why do they want to search. The " if you have nothing to hide then what's the problem" is rediculous. My car is mine as is my house. I will never conscent to a search just because some LEO wants to do it. We don't live in Nazi Germany, China, or any other country that seems to think this is ok. We live in the United States and our forfathers didn't draft the constitution both Federal and State just so some LEO could ignore it just because he wanted to. People need to stand up for themselves and start telling these people NO. If they have probable cause then go for it, if they don't they shouldn't even ask.

  • jim275909 Sep 23, 2011

    I'm sure the stats on blacks getting searched more then whites has nothing to do with the FBI Crime stats showing that blacks commit crimes way out of there proportion in the population.

  • hawkti2 Sep 23, 2011

    Well they said if they have probable cause they dont need your consent so if they see or smell something or find it on you I guess they can look but just to check lets see if I can find something I dont think so. I will never give consent if pulled over why do I have to prove my inocents. If I get pulled over give me my ticket and let me be on my way. Woould you let them come into your home to look around you have nothing to hide right.

  • Realamerican71 Sep 21, 2011

    I have no problem with a consent to search form. If I have nothing to hide, then by all means I'll sign on the dotted line and let you have a look. However when you're done and find nothing... make sure you put everything back the way you found it. I had a SC HP Trooper that did not like that.

  • working for deadbeats Sep 21, 2011

    The crime will increase, so the criminals win again.

  • Wingnut Central Sep 21, 2011

    Oh boo, it's such a downer when law enforcement has to abide by the Constitution of the United States of America.

  • mfarmer1 Sep 21, 2011

    maybe if all the cars had video to protect the LEO, and also the suspect we would not even have this issue. If they are on Video, "Yes office search my car" for me that's good as gold".

    Of course all of them are innocent when the LEO finds a Kilo of dope on them.

  • josephlawrence43 Sep 21, 2011

    From my perspective--just another situation in which people are trying to avoid responsibility for their actions by claiming that because they are of a certain racial group--they are somehow exempt from the laws the rest of us must live with. Political correctness run amok...

  • Big Bill Sep 21, 2011

    Keep in mind LEO's will lie in order to search or detain you. I had an officer in High Point make a statement on a report the he "smelled a strong odor of alcohol coming from my car".

    I do not drink and I was alone in the car. In fact the only alcohol that has ever been in my car is the added ethanol in the gas tank.

    He had asked to search the vehicle and I politely declined due simply to time constraints so he made me do the field sobriety test and delayed me almost half an hour simply because he was annoyed.

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