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Spring Lake residents look for answers amid police probe

Posted May 12, 2009

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— Residents of Spring Lake came out to a town meeting Monday to ask about the arrests of two police officers and the resignation of the chief.

Spring Lake Police Department Spring Lake police takeover sparks concern

Cumberland County Sheriff's Office assumed control of law enforcement in Spring Lake a week ago, following the arrests of Sgt. Darryl Eugene Coulter Sr. and Sgt. Alphonzo Devonne Whittington Jr. on a variety of charges. Spring Lake Police Chief A.C. Brown also resigned amid allegations he was shredding files.

"They need to sit down with these citizens. These citizens weren't here because they were happy with the town,” said James Welch, former assistant Spring Lake police chief.

The town board did not address how the probe is being handled at its regular meeting Monday. However, they did go into closed session.

Some residents of the town of more than 8,000 said they were left without answers.

"When you have corruption going on in there, you are concerned and you are worried. I think those are the issues that should have been addressed tonight,” resident Jackie Jackson said.

According to Mayor Pro Tem James O’Garra, board members discussed the police controversy behind closed doors. But the mayor avoided talking about the issue with the media.

“It takes time to restructure and do things in a proper manner. You just don't tell everyone everything you are going to do before you do it,” Mayor Ethel Clark said.

Brown, who had been with the Spring Lake Police Department since the 1990s and became chief in 2004, said he was shredding personal documents and not official files. He resigned May 5.

Coulter and Whittington were arrested on May 4. Coulter was charged with 20 counts, including three each of second-degree kidnapping, simple assault and assault with a deadly weapon. Whittington was charged with 11 counts, including three counts of felony larceny and one count of felony embezzlement.

The law enforcement takeover came after Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis 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.

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  • nicolegreene May 14, 2009

    PROFESSOR, NOT ALL OF THE SPRING LAKE POLICE DEPARTMENT ARE CORRUPT. MANY OF THE OFFICERS ARE GOOD GUYS WHO ARE BEING PUNISHED FOR A FEW WHO ARE DIRTY. ONCE THE SBI WRAPS THINGS UP THEN THE PUBLIC WILL SEE WHCIH ONES ARE GOOD. I PERSONALLY DON'T AGREE WITH WIPEING THE SLATE CLEAN. I BELEIVE THAT GOOD OFFICERS SHOULD NOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE OR PUNISHED FOR SOMEONE ELSES MISTAKES..

  • gandalla May 12, 2009

    The Mayor is a joke, now she has not comment. She needs to resign she supported the Police Chief through all the problems. The funny thing about all of this is I'm sure the Spring Lake residents will re-elect her and the board of alderman even though they did nothing to prevent this corruption from happening.

  • Professor May 12, 2009

    Springlake needs a new police staff and department. Many are corrupt.

  • gnew46 May 12, 2009

    The Mayor Pro-Tem, a sitting Council Member, is elected by the other Council Members, normally after a Citywide election is held. Every City has this office. It only means that the Mayor Pro-Tem would preside in the absence of the Mayor. This position is analagous to a Vice-Chairman of the Board of Commissioners at the County level, elected by his or her fellow Commissioners. In North Carolina a Mayor has little power and is normally the spokesperson for a City or Town. A Mayor can only vote to break a tie by other Council members. They Mayor Pro-Tem votes on every issue, unless he or she is prsiding as Mayor.

  • Nobody but Carolina May 12, 2009

    A Mayor Pro Tem is someone who is appointed by the Town Commissioners to act in the capacity of Mayor when the elected Mayor might not be available. You usually see this in smaller towns where a Vice Mayor is not elected and the elected Mayor also works a personal job other than Mayor. Now, I haven't heard anything about what is going on with the elected Mayor of Spring Lake.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT May 12, 2009

    "According to Mayor Pro Tem James O’Garra,..."

    If they have a Mayor Pro Tem, does that mean that the current mayor has agreed to step down? Or is this a temporary thing during this crisis? The Mayor Pro Tem was mentioned in the article. But I never read anything about when James O’Garra was appointed or voted in as the Mayor Pro Tem.