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Durham Officers Placed on Leave Amid Investigation

Posted November 8, 2007
Updated November 9, 2007

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— Several Durham police officers have been placed on leave pending a major internal investigation, and WRAL has learned the probe might center around sexual misconduct.

Police Chief Jose Lopez said Thursday that the allegations surfaced shortly after he took over the department in September. He said less than 10 officers, ranging from rookies to veterans, were involved, but did not reveal any other details surrounding the accusations.

When asked by WRAL's Julia Lewis whether police officers are under investigation for having sex with prostitutes, Lopez replied, "At this point and time, we are conducting and investigation into some allegations of misconduct."

"It's not about secrecy. It's about confidentiality," he told WRAL. "You don't want to smear a good officer because of an allegation until we've gotten to the bottom of it."

For more than a month, the department's internal affairs division has been investigating the officers and the allegations.

Lopez said enough evidence has been gathered to warrant placing several officers on administrative leave this week. Others officers have been exonerated by the investigation, he added.

"We're going to make sure that we identify the officers involved and that we take proper action," he said.

He said if the investigation finds that any officers violated the law, he will not hesitate to dismiss them from the force.

"Officers here I've spoken to know I don't accept any criminal activity or any violations of our general order," he said.

Lopez said he was looking into whether there should be a criminal investigation and has contacted the Durham prosecutor's office and federal authorities.

Most of the police department and City Council members had been kept in the dark about the situation. After WRAL approached Lopez about the situation, Lopez held a closed-door meeting to brief city leaders. The meeting lasted less than 30 minutes.

"If we had given information to the public," Lopez said, "we'd have also given it to the individuals we're looking at, and we would've tipped our hand and our investigation would've been over and done with."

The investigation never posed a risk to public safety, he said, adding that he wasn't sure how long the probe would last.

After the briefing, Durham leaders expressed confidence in Lopez's ability to deal with the allegations and investigation.

"In any organization, you're going to have individuals that from time to time do the wrong thing," City Manager Patrick Baker said. "It's important that the department deals with them effectively and quickly."

"All of our police officers do an excellent job," Councilman Eugene Brown said. "We hate to see one or two of them tarnish, but we're not going to let them tarnish the entire department."

Durham police have been involved in other misconduct cases in recent months.

Scott C. Tanner and Gary P. Lee were fired last year after a cook was beaten up outside a Raleigh sports bar. Tanner was convicted of assault in April, while Lee was cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

Officer Talisa Little was charged in August with simple affray in connection with a fight outside a Raleigh nightclub. The charge was later dismissed.

Lopez said situations like these are an unfortunate reality of the job and that he is prepared to deal with them.

"This is something you don't like to see, but this is a reality," he said. "I have to take action, and that's what I'm doing."

54 Comments

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  • hp277 Nov 9, 2007

    Sounds like Chief Lopez is handling this the right way. No need to drag officers' names through the mud while the investigation is underway. We can wait for Internal Affairs to finish up their work.

  • RonnieR Nov 9, 2007

    Actually a President has to be impeached by the House, as
    Clinton was, and convicted by the Senate, as Clinton was not.

  • superman Nov 9, 2007

    President Clinton was an elected official-- he was not hired. You dont fire a president -- he has to be impeached. You comparing apples and oranges. No comparison with what the president did or didnt do with a person who is on the payroll.

  • gto77 Nov 9, 2007

    Cops doing Hookers this is like babies drinking milk it goes hand in hand.

  • Nancy Nov 9, 2007

    On WRAL noon news - apparently, according to talk on the street from other DPD, this has to do with officers having sex with prostitutes.

  • Nancy Nov 9, 2007

    "Mr. Lopez maybe you should have let you team do more investigating before you let North Carolina know what is going on in your agency. I'd say You "tipped your hand off""

    That seems to be an issue Lopez has with his IA team, perhaps he doesn't trust them? He didn't tip his hand, the investigation was ongoing for a month before he met with the county council members. in fact, Cty Mgr Baker speaking to the media last night said he was informed two weeks ago (yes, that would make it BEFORE the election).

  • humbleblaklady Nov 9, 2007

    This is probably just Durham's answer to "creative policing". You get the prostitutes off the streets by putting them in the back seat of patrol cars. Anything is possible--they re-elected Bill Bell didn't they?

  • domonickj Nov 9, 2007

    I commend the new Chief for trying to clean up the corruption in the Durham Police Dept. You have to start somewhere in getting rid of the bad cops, and be assured that most big city departments have them. My hat's off to a Chief who is showing that he has integrity and wants the Durham PD to have some as well. And with all the bad press that Durham get's, it's understandable that he would want to keep the investigation quiet and even call in outside agencies to assure it.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Nov 9, 2007

    Concerning Lopez releasing this story to the press instead of keeping it within the department.......

    Maybe that was done for a good reason, like to smoke out the bad guys.

  • TarheelTurtle Nov 9, 2007

    ...WOW! I was still laughing from Louisville trying to find a comparable football team of Duke's stature to replace the reamining 3 games on their contract, I didn't notice 'til now. What I meant was..."innocent until proven quilty.:

    never type with a hangover.

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