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Spring Lake officials back probe of police department

Posted May 7, 2009

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— Spring Lake officials tried Thursday to help the town's police department recover from the resignation of its chief and the arrests of two officers.

After a 90-minute closed-door meeting with a lawyer, Mayor Ethel Clark and the Board of Aldermen decided to name an interim police chief, determine the costs of having the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office provide law enforcement for the town and urge investigators to continue rooting out any corruption in the police department.

Sgt. Mack Utley, Spring Lake interim police chief Interim chief hopes to revive Spring Lake PD

Cumberland County deputies assumed control of law enforcement in Spring Lake on Monday, following the arrests of two officers on a variety of charges. Four deputies patrol the town on each shift, and a mobile command post has been set up at the Spring Lake Library.

Late Tuesday, Spring Lake Police Chief A.C. Brown resigned amid allegations he was shredding files.

"It's a sad situation when a law enforcement agency is having the problems they're having," Cumberland County Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler said.

Spring Lake officials named Sgt. Mack Utley III as acting police chief. They also instructed Town Manager Larry Faison to work with county officials to determine the proper level of law enforcement for the town and the cost of providing such services.

"I hope that we can start going forward, trying to get back on track, the way it needs to be. I'm going to do my best to help in that process," Utley said.

Officials asked Utley to review all personnel and conduct an assessment of the department. They also commended the State Bureau of Investigation for its two-year probe of the police department and asked that the investigation continue "to ensure any person in a trusted position in the police department be held accountable for their criminal actions."

Indictments allege that Sgt. Darryl Eugene Coulter Sr. participated in an April 2008 home invasion in which three men were held at gunpoint and that he asked subordinate officers to falsify a report about a September raid on a motel room in which $2,900 was seized. Sgt. Alphonzo Devonne Whittington Jr. allegedly stole that money from the police department's evidence room and tried to cover it up, according to an indictment.

On Wednesday, Superior Court Judge E. Lynn Johnson ordered the SBI to take control of all police files, including computer and cell phone records, after witnesses reported seeing Brown and one of his officers shredding files late Tuesday and early Wednesday.

Officials called in a locksmith late Wednesday to change about a dozen locks in the police department, including those to several offices and the evidence room.

Brown, who had been with the Spring Lake Police Department since the 1990s and became chief in 2004, told Butler that he and Sgt. Mark Thomas were shredding personal documents and not official files.

"I'm going to miss him because he's been around here for quite a while," said Clark, who said Monday that the chief had her full support. "He felt it was in the best interest of the town that he resign."

Because more than 20 Spring Lake officers remain on the job, Butler issued a directive that the officers not initiate criminal cases or set up crime scenes.

Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis has dismissed all pending misdemeanor cases in Spring Lake, saying that he suspects senior officers of lying and directing other officers to fabricate facts in police reports.

55 Comments

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  • ratherbnnc May 8, 2009

    I think it would be in the best interest of Spring Lake to appeal that Judges order to the Court of Appeals. Let Spring Lake handle Spring Lakes Problems! If the Town Alderman know there is corruption fire them and let them be held accountable. If i were the Mayor i would direct that the Police Dept continue with their duties as normal and not enter into any felony investigations until its resolved in court.

  • gandalla May 8, 2009

    I think I saw some of these officers working security duties at the wal mart on 210.

  • rusty101 May 8, 2009

    SWAT team member wannabe Mark Thomass will be known hence forth as the Spring Lake Shredder.

    Next job, Office Max.

  • deputydog1296 May 7, 2009

    How can a department participate in something like this, after taking an oath to uphold the law. I agree that the remaining Officers attempt to find another agency to work at. Even if the remaining officers did not participate, their reputation will be questioned. May God be with the remaining Officers.

  • rationalobserver May 7, 2009

    ethel clark is a perfect example of wasted taxpayer money. she has handled this in a horrifyingly amateurish and unprofessional fashion since day one. all of this reads like corruption in a third world country-- this should not be happening in our state.

  • nicolegreene May 7, 2009

    oldfirehorse, that was not directed towrads you. you make valid points and i dont blame the public for being concerend. i believe its in the best intrest for the remaining officers to find another dept to work for..I was just saying some of the remaining officers are innocent

  • Glass Half Full May 7, 2009

    So I guess they're keeping the Police Department for crossing guard duty? If the Sheriff's Department is in chage of all law enforcement, I don't see the point. There well may be some innocent officers in this, however, if they really want a career in law enforcement they better beat it out of Spring Lake. You're known by the company you keep and in an instance like this knowing and doing nothing about it is as bad as being directly involved.

  • oldfirehorse May 7, 2009

    "...there you go pointing fingers who are we to say that ALL of the officers..." /endquote -------- If that's directed at me, you need to reread my post. I hope everything turns out well for you and your family.

  • gandalla May 7, 2009

    They just dont know when to cut their losses. I think this was the same board that supported the ex-chief even after the outside consultant said he lacked leadership ability

  • nicolegreene May 7, 2009

    Just updated on fayettevilleobserver.com that the town board unanimously voted to keep the police department. Now maybe the officers remaining will have a chance to redeem themselves.

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