Local News

Spring Lake Police Department stripped of authority

Posted May 4, 2009
Updated May 5, 2009

— Two Spring Lake police sergeants have been arrested and their department has been stripped of its criminal investigation duties.

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office has full authority in the town, officials said, and has also assumed all 911 calls to the police department.

Spring Lake Police Department Spring Lake officers charged in SBI probe

In a letter Monday to Chief District Judge Elizabeth Keever, District Attorney Edward Grannis said he has also dismissed the majority of the police department's pending misdemeanor cases.

He said he suspects senior officers of lying and directing other officers to fabricate facts in police reports.

"We can no longer rely upon the basic presumed integrity of the work product of this department," he said.

Sgt. Alphonzo Devonne Whittington Jr., 32, was charged with one count of embezzlement, one count of obtaining property by false pretense, three counts of larceny, three counts of obstruction of justice – all felonies – and two misdemeanor counts of failure to discharge duty and one misdemeanor count of solicitation to commit a felony.

He was in the Cumberland County jail Monday evening under a $100,000 bond.

Sgt. Darryl Eugene Coulter Sr., 43, faces 20 counts: two counts of obstruction of justice; three counts of second-degree kidnapping; and one count of felony breaking and entering – all felony charges.

He also faces two counts of willful failure to discharge duty; three counts of simple assault; three counts of assault with a deadly weapon; three counts of assault by pointing a gun and three counts of false imprisonment – all misdemeanors.

He was in the Cumberland County jail under a $250,000 bond.

Further details of the crimes were not immediately available Monday afternoon, but District Court Judge Beth Keever said in a memo to county magistrates that the indictments were for actions that occurred while the officers were on duty.

On a judge’s order, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office has handled felony investigations in the town since July 2007, following a botched homicide investigation involving a 3-year-old.

Grannis had been concerned that the police department didn't have the capacity to investigate more-serious crimes.

He first asked the State Bureau of Investigation to begin investigating the police department in 2007, he said in the letter, following a conversation a police officer had with a deputy about narcotics enforcement.

An SBI report raised "much deeper concern" that the police department "lacked the trained manpower and expertise to conduct a felony investigation," he said in his letter.

The SBI is continuing its probe, and Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, said more indictments are possible.

Meanwhile, Cumberland County Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler said, four deputies will work in Spring Lake each shift as long as necessary.

"The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office has people on the streets now, and we'll be doing the patrolling," Butler said. "We want the people of Spring Lake to know that we're here."

The sheriff's office has also established a command post at the Spring Lake Library and set up the telephone number 910-323-1500 for non-emergency phone calls.

Grannis said Spring Lake Police Chief A.C. Brown is still chief, but he would not say what will happen with the town's 20-plus officers.

"I really can't answer that," he told reporters Monday. "You really need to be talking with someone from the Town of Spring Lake with those questions. Not us."

“I am discouraged at today’s turn of events. We are reviewing these events and actions to determine the best course of action for our citizens and our organization," Faison said in a statement Monday evening.

"We will be discussing with the sheriff a refinement to the rules of procedure affecting our officers’ protocol and the services of the sheriff’s department."

17 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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  • Professor May 5, 4:41 p.m.

    I am certainly glad they were caught. A few years in prison should do the trick.

  • SingleLensReflex.SLR May 5, 3:41 p.m.

    anitov, you can't buy integrity. Madoff was paid billions and didn't find integrity. I'll bet this has to do with drugs and/or prostitution. Looking forward to hearing details.

  • thepeopleschamp May 5, 10:23 a.m.

    It looks to me the town of Spring Lake got what it paid for. Invest little in your police dept. and that is what you get in return.

  • Moabit May 5, 8:59 a.m.

    Sorry that you have not heard about Spring Lake, we actually have a Fire Department as well. Imagine that.

  • mrduright May 5, 8:56 a.m.

    a police department that is corrupt no way

  • KT6596 May 5, 8:15 a.m.

    "N.C. police flooded with applications in bad economy." Just like I said you have no idea who will be applying for the positions. Hope they have a good screening policy.

  • Suasponte May 5, 8:11 a.m.

    MoseyRL

    Thanks for your concern about my health. My eyes are just fine. As you surmised. the story was edited after my comment. The "" means it's a direct quote from the story. In this case, a copy/paste. If only the police department had your keen investigative skills. I feel for all the outstanding officers, and I'm confident it was the majority, who risked their lives daily and have been caught up in this mess.

  • Panther May 5, 8:01 a.m.

    It would not surprise me to see the corruption go all the way to the Mayor’s office. You know, small town politics.

  • MoseyRL May 4, 7:45 p.m.

    Get it straight WRAL. Your statement "Grannis had been concerned that the sheriff’s office didn't have the capacity to investigate the more serious crimes" contradicts logic and your earlier reporting. Details, details....

    ---------------------------
    you should get some reading glasses, unless it was corrected later, but it says "Grannis had been concerned that the police department didn't have the capacity to investigate the more serious crimes"
    details, details...

  • didisaythat May 4, 7:40 p.m.

    It appears that the people higher in rank than Sgt. need to be looked at. How can a PD not be able to handle day to day felony investigations. I understand the extraordinary cases or some Murders, but many small departments use the assistance of the SBI when that occures. It appears the Chief was not concerned about training. I also feel that when you have so many officers in a small department that are braking the law and unable to do day to day police work they are learning this from the top down.

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