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Police group suing Fayetteville over consent search freeze

Posted February 22, 2012

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— A police group that has been outspoken in its opposition to a four-month moratorium on police consent searches in Fayetteville filed a lawsuit against the city in Superior Court Wednesday afternoon.

The Southern States Police Benevolent Association, along with six current and retired Fayetteville police officers, is seeking an injunction to resume the searches, one day after the state Attorney General's Office sided with law enforcement in an informal advisory letter about the issue.

"The City of Fayetteville has waged an unlawful and dangerous attack on the men and women who serve this community," John Midgette, spokesman for the PBA's local chapter, said in a press conference Wednesday.

He added that he reached out repeatedly to Mayor Tony Chavonne and City Council before going forward with the lawsuit, but those efforts were rebuffed.

Fayetteville City Council voted 8-2 last month to put consent searches on hold for 120 days while a consultant investigates claims that the practice disproportionately targets black drivers.

Council members met with the city attorney late Wednesday afternoon to discuss the lawsuit and voted to keep the moratorium in place.

Consent searches, which allow police officers to ask a driver's permission to search a vehicle without establishing probable cause, are legal under North Carolina law. Therefore, Special Deputy Attorney General John J. Aldridge wrote in a letter to Police Chief Tom Bergamine Tuesday, the city had no right to enact an ordinance against them.

"A municipal corporation's regulations, bylaws and ordinances must be in harmony with the general laws of the State," the letter states. "In the case of a conflict between the two, the local regulation must yield to state law."

Because the opinions handed down by the Attorney General's Office were only advisory letters – not directives or court orders – the city is not yet required to repeal its moratorium.

"I don't think it changes the status of where the city is," said Mayor Pro Tem Jim Arp, who proposed the moratorium.

He said Wednesday that the University of North Carolina School of Government agrees that the city has the authority to put a temporary freeze on law enforcement practices.

"Which position is right? You would have to ask a judge that. We think we're in good standing," Arp said. "If we're found not in good standing, we are law-abiding citizens, and we're going to do the right thing."


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  • Benjamin 76 Feb 27, 2012

    The City Council and mayor have done some dirty stuff before this. Look up TicketGate and all the Annexation going on. Keep in mind, these searches are after the person was pulled over for a Traffic Violation. The FPD are not just pulling people over to search a car, the driver had already done something wrong in the first place.

  • cwmllc1952 Feb 27, 2012

    Read the front page of the N&O today about a man waiting for an apology he will never get. The 2 COPS told him we are going to give you a break this time BOSS. Our constitutional rights are even with us in our vehicles. They didn't give him a break. They abused their authority

  • ladyblue Feb 24, 2012

    very well stated the2ruthurts.. People seem to think just because they are in their cars they have the search without provacation protection, but in reality that was meant for people and homes to protect americans. When your car leaves your drive way onto public property and is on state property it is no longer your home property..to deny the right of search..
    It's a big difference in priveleges and rights. To drive is a privelege granted by the state-- it is not a right.

  • Sherlock Feb 23, 2012

    This is a big waste, the city could care less if you sue them, they will spend tons of tax money to win this just like the annexation fight,

  • The2ruthHurts Feb 23, 2012

    There are millions of Americans across the country who go throughout life without ever having a negative contact with law enforcement officers. For those who do, it is generally wrong place, wrong time, but more often wrong friends. They judge the officer because he is not huggy-feely with them or miscontrue assertiveness on the part of the officer with being arrogant-power hungry.

    If officers are "planting" contraband on innocent people (even the low-lives of society) then they need to go. But do not go using that as an excuse to condemn all. Regardless of what you think, society have grown to need officers because without them, society as we know it is gone.

    Consent searches whether you like them or not, exist. If people are willing to consent to one, that is their discretion. There will be times where officers do not need consent to search your car because they already have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to, but rather use the "nice" route to proceed with the investigation

  • Lightfoot3 Feb 23, 2012

    "I see here today that a lot of stress is being put on an apparent single instance of police misconduct." - josephlawrence43

    Across the state, and across the nation, that have been many instances of police planting drugs and other evidence, and getting caught doing it. I've personally witnessed it myself. It happens. I'm not saying it happens a lot, but it does happen.

    "If a police officer requests to search your car, and you have nothing illegal to hide, what is the problem with it?" - bgriner12162

    If they decide to plant something, you'll have BIG problems.

    "The whole idea of a "consent" search is a joke - the "consent" is almost always given under duress" -


  • abylelab -BT- Feb 23, 2012

    ++It never ceases to amaze that those most in favor of strict constructionist interpretation of the law seem to favor a more "activist" approach when they believe the law will be applied only to someone else.

    tru dat. by their logic, i guess everyone accused is guilty?

  • abylelab -BT- Feb 23, 2012

    ++ bet if your house was getting broken into or your child was buying drugs out of a blue honda accord you would want the one that just pulled out of your road stopped and searched wouldn't you, but what if they didn't do anything wrong for the police to stop them? They don't have consent but they will be back to sell your child some more dope don't worry. Think about it.

    they would have probable cause in those situations, your point is mute

  • independent_thinker Feb 22, 2012

    The model oath for a police officer includes upholding the Constitution. The Constitution includes the 4th Amendment. That means the police need to have probable cause, a warrant or my permission.

    Only a fool would allow a consent search.

    It never ceases to amaze that those most in favor of strict constructionist interpretation of the law seem to favor a more "activist" approach when they believe the law will be applied only to someone else.

  • noland2002 Feb 22, 2012

    How would it be if a cop came to your door and said, "Give me consent to search your house". Would you? Too many dirty cops to allow consent searches....Just because NC says its legal, does not make it right. If a person is legally suspected, then get a SEARCH warrant, otherwise...have a good day, officer!