Local News

Fayetteville approves freeze on police search practice

Posted January 23, 2012

— Fayetteville leaders on Monday night approved a temporary freeze on so-called police consent searches, which have drawn criticism by some who believe the method to be racially biased.

The moratorium will be in place for 120 days or until a consulting group reports its findings to the City Council about the practice, in which police can ask drivers for permission to search a vehicle based on nothing more than a hunch.

Monday night's 8-2 vote came amid two differing legal opinions about whether the city has the authority to put consent searches on hold.

The North Carolina Police Benevolent Association addressed the council at Monday's meeting, urging them to vote against the moratorium and arguing that it violates state and federal law.

"You are setting a precedent that a local government can set aside or supercede state and federal law," said John Midgette, the group's executive director. "Our courts have long held that that can't be done."

Mayor Tony Chavonne said it was time for the city to consider a policy change.

"When an issue continues to grow and divide our community, and it remains unaddressed by staff, as this one has for over a year now, then the council does have the final responsibility to step in," Chavonne said.

He added that he didn't mind the city being a "legal test case," as long as it's "a legal test case for what's right."

City Council members Valencia Applewhite and Keith Bates voted against the measure.

"I am not convinced that we are not in violation of state statute," Applewhite said.

The decision comes after 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.

Those numbers have drawn concern of racial profiling from groups such as the NAACP, but Fayetteville's police chief has defended the practice as a useful law enforcement tool and has said the searches aren't racially motivated.

The consultant, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, will be paid $30,000 for its review, which could be complete within 60-75 days.

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  • fisherman0117 Jan 25, 2012

    2 out of 3 people are Black so forget the Race problem you got the Law on Your side too But its alright their just Black

  • thepeopleschamp Jan 25, 2012

    "looks like the small quaint military town is about to get much worse, this also includes the HUGE volume of american soldiers coming back with severe PTSD....shame" InnocentBystander21

    Fayetteville hasn't been quaint since it was called Cross Creek, but I get your point.

  • InnocentBystander21 Jan 25, 2012

    looks like the small quaint military town is about to get much worse, this also includes the HUGE volume of american soldiers coming back with severe PTSD....shame

  • Wendellcatlover Jan 25, 2012

    Great, another way for the hands of the police to be tied. How can they do their job if we don't let them?

  • justdontgetit Jan 24, 2012

    @ thepeopleschamp, I am glad that I am not the only one that realizes and knows that its true. Also found out just a little while ago that Federal and State General Statutes over rule and city government decisions so I am thinking that the Fay. City Council may want to rethink what they have done here. They are more worried about the NAACP crying and using the race card so they decide to trump State Laws that the US Supreme Court has already upheld. I still say that each member of the city council and the Mayor should get in a patrol car and ride with a patrol officer not a supervisor but the ones that are actually in the trenches and ride a complete day shift and complete night shift (yes 12 hours of each) just to see what these officers have to deal with on a daily basis! I bet you none of them would want to do it because they would be to scared to do it cause they may see that they are WRONG. I say let the police do their jobs.... be the POLICE and uphold the law with no restriction

  • thepeopleschamp Jan 24, 2012

    @ justdontgetit, you actually do get it 100%. That point being is that the council has voted 8-2 to take away a useful tool (that has already been proven constitutional by the Supreme Court) in a move that only helps criminals.

  • thepeopleschamp Jan 24, 2012

    "I believe that is a bit different. That would fall under exigent circumstances....if human life is at risk, I feel like most people wouldn't have an issue with the officer conducting a search" hunter38

    @ hunter38, I agree with you 100%, but, the Fay city council has taken away that option the officer would have had to simply ask to look in the trunk in that scenerio.

  • justdontgetit Jan 24, 2012

    I believe that is a bit different. That would fall under exigent circumstances....if human life is at risk, I feel like most people wouldn't have an issue with the officer conducting a search
    hunter38

    Problem with that is it still falls back on the officers "opinion" or "suspicion" or as everyone has used "hunch" of the officer that something isn't right and with the city council's new rule the officer still can't ask for the driver's permission to look in the trunk. What the City Council has done is created a "catch 22" They have pretty much tied the officer's hands as far as any searches go that don't have a Search Warrant. Exigent circumstances or not unless the officer actually seen the person get put in the trunk of the car and then well its still iffy as some would put it if it was against the city councils wishes as how THEY want the police to do their jobs.

  • hunter38 Jan 24, 2012

    Here is a scenerio: if an officer hears a cry in the trunk of a car but doesn't know for sure if it was a baby doll or a human, the Fay city council has now taken away the officer's ability to ask to for a consent search."

    I believe that is a bit different. That would fall under exigent circumstances....if human life is at risk, I feel like most people wouldn't have an issue with the officer conducting a search

  • thepeopleschamp Jan 24, 2012

    "I'm willing to bet my life on it, its still more than minimum requirements to become a cop. iceblue

    A person is not required to have a background in law to become a cop, everyone has a starting point. There is training in law while becoming a cop. There is no requirement for law training before or during the time of being on council.

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