Local News

Fayetteville leaders could halt police search practice

Posted January 23, 2012

— The Fayetteville City Council could vote Monday night to put a temporary freeze on a type of police search that has drawn criticism as disproportionately focusing on black residents.

The resolution would halt, for 120 days, so-called consent searches, in which police can ask drivers for permission to search a vehicle based on nothing more than a hunch.

If the council votes to approve the moratorium, it would begin on Feb. 1.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Arp says he supports the police but wants time for a $30,000 independent review of the practice.

"We're certainly not saying to ban it," Arp said. "I'm in favor of consent searches. I think they're a good tool, but I don't think they're the only tool in the toolbox."

An analysis of traffic stops over the past two years by The Fayetteville Observer showed that black drivers accounted for three out of every four searches.

The numbers have drawn concern of racial profiling from groups, such as the NAACP, which called on city leaders Monday afternoon to approve the moratorium.

"This is a vital first step in an attempt to restore the public's confidence in the police force," state NAACP President Rev. William Barber said in a statement, adding that "this type of extreme racial bias needs to be corrected immediately."

Fayetteville police Chief Tom Bergamine, however, has defended the practice as a useful law enforcement tool and has said the searches aren't racially motivated.

Because of questions surrounding the legality of a moratorium, City Council members were expected to meet with the city attorney prior to Monday's meeting.

A report to the city from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government said the Council has the authority to put consent searches on hold.

Fayetteville leaders could halt police search practice Fayetteville leaders could halt police search practice

The North Carolina Police Benevolent Association says police are given power to do consent searches in a state statute and that city leaders do not have the power to override state law.

At least one City Council member, Valencia Applewhite, worries that temporarily stopping the searches could open the city up to lawsuits and could affect the police department's accreditation.

She said that she planned to vote against the moratorium.

Councilman Keith Bates also said he planned to vote against it, although he is in favor of the independent review.

In October, the City Council voted 7-3 against a proposal that would have required police to get written consent before searching a vehicle.

It did, however, review the search guidelines and clarified for police that there must be at least one clear factor of suspicion to warrant a consent search. The council also said that all consent searches must also be documented and that officers must record their interactions with drivers during the searches.


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  • this is fdup Jan 23, 2012

    asking consent is a basic part of police work and has been upheld over and over again in case law. Asking for consent is giving the person stopped the power to choose yes or no. This seems like a very dumb idea on the part of the town board.

  • Commenter Jan 23, 2012

    "If one were innocent and has done nothing wrong, why would one seek legal council?" = Mike Nifong said that. People here are saying the same thing w.r.t. consent to searches. Say hi to Mike when you see him.

  • beachboater Jan 23, 2012

    Just curious, did the paper count how many of these stops of black residents were made by black police officers?

    I'm sure Fayetteville has a number of black officers. If it is all white officers doing the searches, then maybe you have something to gripe about. If stops are made by both black and white officers, where's the beef.

    If the Reverend Doctor William Barber says they need to stop, they probably need to continue. Just my 2¢ worth.

  • rstcort1 Jan 23, 2012

    "Law enforcement officers are allowed to search as incident to arrest in this state. If an officer arrests you for breaking any law then YES that officer has the right to search the area and "reach" area of the vehicle that the suspect was in. "

    Actually this is not entirely true. According to the Supreme Court in Arizona v. Gant, a Law Enforcement Officer can not search a vehicle incident to arrest unless he/she is to search for items related to the crime the defendant is being arrested for.

    If any contraband is found in the vehicle, you do not have to wait for a search warrant.

  • we2hedonists Jan 23, 2012

    If your not doing nothing illegal, I don't see what the problem is. Hey, if they want to search my vehicle, go for it. I have nothing to hide except McDonalds wrappers and soda bottles on the floorboard. warbirdlover

    Then whats to stop them at 2:30 a.m. and asking you to wait outside while they search your house? Read the article about the GPS receiver and see the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court about violation of civil rights. I'm all for taking out drug dealers and criminals, but not at the expense of our liberties. If done at the expense of our liberties, then we're all criminals and would revert as a society. I don't rely on cops to keep my family safe. But I want to make sure when they do arrest a "bad guy" that he stays in jail. If they violate his civil rights during the arrest, then he goes free. Don't violate their civil rights and make sure they stay in jail.

  • justdontgetit Jan 23, 2012

    The2ruthHurts Has said it right here. The towns and counties hire these officers for their experience. Now if the commisioners would like to go through the long hours of Basic Law Enforcement Training then their field training by a seasoned officer and then do the job as a Police Officer for the little that they get paid for putting their lives on the line like they do I am sure that they would leave the Police alone and let them do their jobs that THEY are trained to do. Im not sure what the average Patrol officer is paid in the city of Fayetteville but I can gurantee you its not enough.. just in the last week one has been assaulted while questioning a suspect and Fire Fighters as well as Police were shot at. Now how many people would do that for a living? Not many of you that read this would. It takes a special person with a love for the job to do it because anyone that knows a police officer knows that they dont do it for the money!

  • justdontgetit Jan 23, 2012

    The lousy supreme court ruled that vehicle searches incident to arrest are no longer legal." Uh, since WHEN??? randomguy

    Law enforcement officers are allowed to search as incident to arrest in this state. If an officer arrests you for breaking any law then YES that officer has the right to search the area and "reach" area of the vehicle that the suspect was in. Which means the area around where that person ws sitting as well as any area that person could reach from his position. Now if anything illegal is found due to that particular search incident to arrest is found then that is probable cause to search further. However any seasoned officer will stop the search and get a search warrant issued to cover the entire vehicle so that no fast talking lawyer can say well the search and seizure wasnt legal. So yes "Search incident to Arrest" does exist and is LEGAL in NC.

    North Carolina General Statute
    § 113‑137 Search on arrest; seizure and confiscation of property

  • The2ruthHurts Jan 23, 2012

    If we could only get the same response when the criminal commits an act. But instead, the law enforcement officer becomes the social punching bag for what is wrong in our society.

    The City of Fayetteville can do what they think is the right thing to do- we cannot fault them for that. I just hope that they understand what they are doing in response to an issue that has been around since the introduction of the "race card."

    Police are more apt to be around where most of the crime originates or lingers. Cops go where the criminals are. It just so happens that it is usually in the poorer parts of the community where most of the citizens are minority. You can do the math from here.

    If any police encounter results in an arrest then I guess this "hunch" by the officer was correct. Are we not paying them for that? Whether you agree/disagree in the perceived practices of police is irrelevant. The world is ugly and unfair and cops, not you, have to live in it. So who's side are you on?

  • warbirdlover Jan 23, 2012

    If your not doing nothing illegal, I don't see what the problem is. Hey, if they want to search my vehicle, go for it. I have nothing to hide except McDonalds wrappers and soda bottles on the floorboard.

  • justdontgetit Jan 23, 2012

    Ok now for those that had the questions about searching and consent to search questions these posts should answer them.
    Now as far as if the officer has the right to ask you for consent to search that is on a case to case basis which depends on the circumstances of the case. If your stopped by an officer and you are acting suspicious for any reason that gives the officer the opinion that something is not right and ask you for consent to search your vehicle. Most officers dont just ask everyone that they stop if they can search their vehicle, just the ones that they think need to be due to experience or training. If the City Commissioners have questions of how the officers of the Fay PD opperate then each Commisioner should go out and ride a 12 hour day shift patrol and a 12 hour night shift patrol with one of the officers and just see what these officers face on a daily basis they may think differently then about how they want to limit the officers and how they do their duties!