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Durham councilman: Officers' arrests embarrassing

Posted February 3, 2010
Updated February 4, 2010

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— A Durham City Council member on Wednesday called continuing negative publicity surrounding the Durham Police Department an embarrassment.

On Tuesday, a Durham officer was arrested in Wake County on breaking and entering and extortion charges. Last week, a former Durham officer was indicted on federal drug and weapons charges.

Durham Police Department Second Durham officer arrested in week

"There a few people who will use the old rationale, 'Well this represents a few rotten apples in the police barrel,'" Councilman Eugene Brown said. "I don't buy into that because I think the citizens of Durham deserve better."

Wake County deputies arrested Stephen Patrick Commander Jr., 31, of Oxford, on Friday in a November home break-in in Wake Forest. He is also accused of threatening the homeowners.

"We had a Durham, a Durham police officer come here, had a badge on, threatening that we was up here selling drugs and stuff, and we don't even know who this man was," a woman told a Wake County dispatcher in a 911 call released Wednesday.

The homeowner, Harvey Curtis, told WRAL News that Commander came to his home with his badge and gun looking for Curtis' stepson. He said the officer came through the front door without permission and searched his stepson's room, and when he asked to see a warrant or other paperwork, he said Commander told him he didn't need it.

Curtis said Commander later threatened his stepson's safety, saying the 25-year-old "will be dead by the end of the day" if Curtis didn't tell the officer where the stepson was.

Deputies consulted with Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby before filing charges against Commander.

"Based on the evidence they presented me with, I thought that the case should go forward," Willoughby said.

Commander said Wednesday that he is innocent of the charges but declined further comment.

He has been a Durham officer for three years and is assigned to the Uniform Patrol Bureau. Commander has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, Police Chief Jose Lopez said.

Lopez said in a statement issued late Wednesday that he was "deeply disappointed" by the arrests of Commander and former officer Sherrod Peace.

"These arrests are in no way reflective of our officers who work hard and serve our community every day," Lopez said. "I want the community to rest assured that the Durham Police Department is committed to providing the best service possible with professionalism, integrity, pride and dedication to the community."

Both Lopez and Brown said Commander and Peace are innocent until proven guilty, but Brown said the arrests threaten the police department's credibility.

"They wear the badge and they carry the gun, and that puts them in a little different class," he said. "The trust has to be there. The credibility has to be there. The accountability has to be there.”

Lopez said his department's Professional Standards Division and Criminal Investigations Division would investigate the case against Commander.

An internal investigation led to the recent federal indictment against Peace. A grand jury charged him with distributing less than 5 grams of crack cocaine on Dec. 21 and possessing a .45-caliber handgun during the alleged incident.

Peace, 35, who also was assigned to the Uniform Patrol Bureau, resigned from the police department on Dec. 31.

The Attorney General's Office also is weighing possible charges following an investigation into overtime paid to a police department employee who coordinated off-duty jobs for officers.

"I feel certain that the (city) manager will be meeting with the chief about this issue, or I should say more specifically all of these issues that have arisen,” Brown said.

59 Comments

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  • Journey985 Feb 5, 2010

    Again, must be nice to blindly support LEO's that continue to break the law!!!

  • AnotherIgnoredComment Feb 5, 2010

    guess my reply yesturday to Journey was once again blocked by censors....I think he was work for you to get ratings

  • CSA.lifer. Feb 4, 2010

    I need a Firearm...I think..........:)

  • wildcat Feb 4, 2010

    As long as it was not YOU, then allow the law to take care of these BAD cops. Just do YOUR job and don't worry about the conduct of others. Your reward will come before you know it.

  • Journey985 Feb 4, 2010

    "Date of Incident: Tuesday, June 17, 2008 Trooper David Blanton was shot and killed while making a traffic stop on I-40 near Canton, North Carolina. A struggle ensued during the stop and he was fatally shot. He is survived by his wife and 2-week-old son. Trooper Blanton's son, Tye, passed away in October 2008 at the age of 4 months" Please explain to me WHAT this has to do with the story and comments being posted about this story? We are discussing the obvious issues going on in the Durham PD. Not what happened to a Trooper 2 years ago..Thank you once again for proving my point, you can not stay on the subject at hand...which is the Blatant disgrace the Durham PD is suffering by two officers being arressted and charged within a week. When you're ready to talk about that let me know. But hey, the blue wall will pay attention to what they want to pay attention to!!!

  • Journey985 Feb 4, 2010

    "You do know that most agencies don't even assign non-felony cases to detectives don't you? Hit & run of a parked car is not a felony. That lazy Apex officer probably took several other reports and answered several other calls for service while you investigated that one call."...Yes I do know anitov, But I also know that after the officer took the report that he did not even bother driving through the complex to see if the vehicle was there. So as I stated...LAZY!

  • wildcat Feb 4, 2010

    One rotten apple spoils the whole bunch. Not necessarily true in this case. There are many police officer that are really good on their jobs, but there are some really bad cops that don't need to be there.

  • AnotherIgnoredComment Feb 4, 2010

    Yep, all cops are evil and do no good and are worthless like all these cophaters are saying, like this guy:

    Date of Incident: Friday, July 11, 1997
    Detective Hale was fatally shot in the head while attempting to apprehend a murder suspect. He is survived by his wife and two daughters

    OR

    Date of Incident: Tuesday, June 17, 2008
    Trooper David Blanton was shot and killed while making a traffic stop on I-40 near Canton, North Carolina. A struggle ensued during the stop and he was fatally shot.
    He is survived by his wife and 2-week-old son. Trooper Blanton's son, Tye, passed away in October 2008 at the age of 4 months.
    OR

    take a look for yourself at the how many have died and given their life in the line of duty for your protection and compare that to the same amount who have been arrested or charged with misconduct:

    http://www.odmp.org/

  • Almost Famous Feb 4, 2010

    Seriously, most of your comments are ridiculous! There are over 500 Officers in the DPD. 99.9% come to work everyday, do their job and go home. Unfortunately in recent months there have been several incidents that blemished the whole Department.

    It's going to happen EVERYWHERE, in every part of society, in EVERY Job. The difference is, when a Police Officer does something wrong they are held to a higher standard and actually will serve time, unlike the rest of society whom will only be given a suspended sentence. If they are found guilty......throw the book at them. But at the very least let's not try the case right here.

    Lopez is the first Chief in a long time in this place that will actually hold guilty parties responsible!!!

    So for all of you who hate the Police, and "can handle themselves".....Good Luck!

  • thepeopleschamp Feb 4, 2010

    "my friends car got run into while parked at my house on New Years Eve, we called in the hit and run, and the police took a report, well I went ahead and spoke to my neighbors, gathered information, kept paint chips for coparrison and searched my complex for the next few days..I found the vehicle that committed the crime ME, not the lazy Apex PD, ME!" journey

    You do know that most agencies don't even assign non-felony cases to detectives don't you? Hit & run of a parked car is not a felony. That lazy Apex officer probably took several other reports and answered several other calls for service while you investigated that one call.

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