Judge Rules Durham Police Search Unconstitutional
Posted August 2, 2002
DURHAM, N.C. — For the second time in a month, a Durham judge has thrown out a search conducted by the
Durham Police Department
. The rulings have the department re-evaluating its procedures.
When neighbors complain about illegal activities, Durham police often go door-to-door looking for the problem.
"So when the complaint comes in, it's our job to come out," said Lawrence Campbell, public defender.
Called "knock and talks," the practice is commonly used by police in what are considered to be problem areas. There are no search warrants involved. Officers simply knock on doors, talk to residents and ask to be let inside to search the home.
Thursday, Judge Ron Stephens called a search of an apartment on Trinity Avenue unconsitutional.
In February, Durham police conducted a major raid at the Cheek Road Apartments. Neighbors complained of police brutality.
A few weeks ago, Judge Orlando Hudson declared part of the raid was unconstitutional. He said police had gone beyond the scope of the search warrant and that officers had "seized" the entire neighborhood.
Durham police conduct between 50 to 100 knock and talk searches every year, but the judges' rulings have the department rethinking how it does business.
"Our policy, as it relates to knock and talks, is under review. The decision has also been made that in the future any large scale operations that are planned or conducted will be reviews by our legal staff," said Lt. N.J. Blake of the Durham Police Department.
As a result of the decisions made by the two judges, the district attorney's office dropped charges against 36 people.
Interim Police Chief Steve Chalmers has maintained that his department has done nothing wrong, but added they will not second-guess the judges' decisions.