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Mayor: Spring Lake irate over police department takeover

Posted May 5, 2009

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— Town residents are upset over the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office move Monday to assume control of the Spring Lake Police Department, Mayor Ethel Clark said.

The takeover came as state agents arrested two Spring Lake officers on charges ranging from embezzlement and obstruction of justice to kidnapping and breaking and entering.

"(They are) irate, not about the police department but what's being done to the police department," Clark said.

Sgt. Darryl Eugene Coulter Sr. and Sgt. Alphonzo Devonne Whittington Jr. were being held Tuesday in the Cumberland County Jail, and a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office said more arrests were expected in the case.

Chief District Judge Elizabeth Keever wrote in a memo to county magistrates that Coulter and Whittington were indicted on charges linked to alleged actions that occurred while they were on duty.

Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis dismissed all pending misdemeanor cases in Spring Lake, saying the 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," Grannis said.

Two years ago, at Grannis' urging, another judge stripped Spring Lake of the authority to handle felony investigations and put those cases in the hands of sheriff's investigators. That followed a botched homicide investigation involving a 3-year-old.

Spring Lake Police Chief A.C. Brown still holds that position, Grannis said, declining to speculate on the future of the town's 20-plus officers.

Clark said she supports Brown and has no plans to seek his resignation. She also denied speculation that she would step down as mayor.

"Why would the actions of two officers discredit me as mayor?" she said.

Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler said four deputies would work on each shift in Spring Lake for as long as necessary. His 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.

The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners issued a statement Tuesday supporting the police department takeover and urging a quick resolution to the problems plaguing the department.

“The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners will support the Sheriff’s Office in providing law enforcement protection to the citizens of Spring Lake during a limited transition period of approximately 30 days,” Chairwoman Jeannette Council said in the statement.

“The commissioners urge the leaders of Spring Lake to contract with the sheriff to provide basic law enforcement services to Spring Lake until the Spring Lake Police Department can resume its role as a fully functioning law enforcement agency,” Council wrote.

25 Comments

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  • yruatwit May 8, 2009

    Ethel Clark's comments are extremely telling. It's obvious that she is a part of, in fact condones, a town administration culture that is rife with ethical impropriety, poor management, lack of a professionally trained and educated staff and exceedingly arrogant attitudes. It's also apparent in light of Ethel's support of Sheriff Brown that he must have some pretty incriminating information that could do some serious damage to her self-perceived reputation and status.

  • rationalobserver May 5, 2009

    Somehow I doubt that Ethel Clark took a poll in Spring Lake asking its residents their response to a completely justified step that was taken to protect them and the poll came up "irate". Where does she get her information from? This is a disgraceful response to something that SHOULD make Spring Lake residents irate... gross abuses of power by men who taxpayers pay to PROTECT and SERVE them. What is Ethel Clark's problem? Sounds like she has her hands dirty or she has no idea what justice is. I feel bad for Spring Lake.

  • gandalla May 5, 2009

    The Mayor is so funny, she wants to know why two bad apples should bring discredit upon her,lol. Where has she been this department is full a problems and they start with the Chief. He has created an enviorment of chaos in which these officer felt they could get away with this, she needs to resign ASAP

  • kimmarienc May 5, 2009

    It's about time that Spring Lake is cleaned up.

  • johnmayfield47 May 5, 2009

    this should happen in other towns and departments. some police dept's need to be shut down and let the sheriff dept. run them. the town i live in is awful. takes the pd forever to answer a call and they have a hard time trying to solve a crime. i wish the sheriff's dept would take over the pd here. do want say which town but i live 30 min. north of durham

  • readme May 5, 2009

    On the surface this seems to be a good move to fight corruption and ensure public safety for all citizens. What am I missing? There must be some reason they are objecting.

  • agmurphy1976 May 5, 2009

    It would be nice if this report stated why the the citizens are upset. Another great story by WRAL's world class reporters with no little or no facts to back up what they are insinuating.

  • housemanagercary May 5, 2009

    I grew up in CC and my family still lives there. The CCSD runs a first class operation. If the allegations and charges against the SLPD are true, then the best thing for the people of SL is for the CCSD to take over. If they're "irate" over it, they might be hiding something too...

  • familyfour May 5, 2009

    "Why would the actions of two officers discredit me as mayor?" she said......

    considering that there are more arrests to come....I tend to agree with deathrow....

  • luvwhljr.neways May 5, 2009

    Tell you folks something, I don't live in Cumberland county, however, my husband has family there. We had 2 deaths in his family, within a year. If Moose Butler has anything to do with the running of Spring Lake, you can bet it will be a class act. The guy knows how to run a department. We live about 3 counties away, never have I seen a group of more professional deputies. They may have me fooled, but I think that department works and runs like a well-oiled machine.

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