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Questionable police tactic concerns Durham chief

Posted July 9, 2014
Updated July 10, 2014

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— A police officer's testimony that he used a questionable approach to make an arrest in a drug case prompted Durham prosecutors to dismiss the charges and has prompted the city's police chief to investigate whether anyone else uses the method.

"We are looking into it as a precautionary measure," Chief Jose Lopez said Wednesday. "I have no indication that any other officer has used this tactic. I just want to make sure no one else does."

The purported practice involves officers gaining entrance to a home under the pretense of investigating a 911 hang-up call.

Durham County Public Defender Morgan Canady said that was the situation involving the arrest of one her clients, who was charged after an officer told her a call had been made from her home and that he wanted to make sure everyone inside was safe.

The officer, A. Beck, testified during a hearing on May 27 that the tactic is something police "always do."

Lopez said that's not the case.

"We don't have a training system or policy that uses lying to get consent," he said.

After learning about Beck's testimony, he sent a memo, dated June 6, ordering any officers who might use the 911 hang-up story to stop immediately.

"I just wanted to make sure that officers know that this is not a practice," he said. "This leads the community to believe that this is a practice that we have. It really is not."

Beverly Thompson, a spokeswoman for Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield, said in a statement that he was aware of the investigation and agrees that it is "entirely unacceptable."

"This is basically someone who had a misconception who added one and one and came up with three," Lopez added. "Now that we see it, we are addressing it. That's what's important that we, as an organization, are learning. We won't repeat these things."


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  • "Screen Name-8/20" Jul 9, 2014

    "'We don't have a training system or policy that uses lying to get consent,' he said."

    I certainly hope not, and personally, I can't imagine anyone intelligent enough to pass a cop entrance exam thinking this was ok to do. And those that do/did need to be fired cause I don't believe they didn't know better and they don't have the honesty to be an officer of the law anywhere in the US.

  • Jackson Smith Jul 9, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    I agree 100%!!

  • James Hicks Jul 9, 2014
    user avatar

    I'm normally one to support LEO's, but this is horse hockey.

    The 4th Amendment supposedly protects us from this type of stuff, so I have to wonder how an officer of the law can even call the practice 'questionable'. If the case seriously is that he doesn't even know his own rights, how can he be expected to uphold those rights for anyone else. It screams severe incompetence at best, and outright lying at worse. In either case, yes, he should be without a LEO career.

    As for a police officer being honest with you, that simply doesn't apply. It's actually standard practice to use any number of tactics (including lying) to get information from a person and/or suspect.

    And lastly. I have to wonder what the officer was doing there at all. Did he just choose a house at random? Did he have some other suspicions? Why didn't he just use the standard lie of "Well I smelled marijuana!"... apparently he did find the drugs.

  • Greg Boop Jul 9, 2014
    user avatar

    I think that this issue and some other related ones are going to cause significant issues for the Durham Police Department and lead to a number of overturned convictions.

  • LocalYokel Jul 10, 2014

    "added one and one and came up with three."

    Please fire employees that can't add well enough to protect our rights and help preserve what little respect you have left as a public safety department.

  • givemeabr8 Jul 10, 2014

    Officers lie ALL the time in the course of their duties. This is not limited to the Durham Police Department. Why is everyone so surprised over this?

  • thinkin out loud Jul 10, 2014

    It's interesting to read all the comments of those that feel this officer somehow broke the law or violated the constitution. Though I agree this is an unusual tactic it IS NOT illegal nor unconstitutional. In fact, police officers are allowed to lie to people. Yes that's right, cops are allowed to lie to people (to an extent) in order to get information or confessions and the like. It's all part of interview and interrogation techniques but there are limitations. This case could have been prosecuted but the ADA probably knew he had a liberal judge and couldn't win so he dismissed it.

    In this case the officer actually did nothing wrong AND at some point someone had to give the officer CONSENT to enter the house unless the officer saw something that would cause exigent circumstances. 911 hang ups happen all the time and 99% are accidents from trying to dial 919. This does require a response but does not allow an officer to just walk in your home.

  • less_govt_is_better_govt Jul 10, 2014

    Psssshhh. Lol.

    Meanwhile in neighboring wake county from 2002 through 2010 the wake county sheriff would allow deputies to use any means possible to obtain consent to search to include coercion, untruthful statements,even communicating threats. It was then the accused citizen's job to prove that these actions occurred or they could just plea down the illegal charges.

    The supreme court ruled a long time ago that LEOs cannot obtain consent via intimidation but in wake and Durham counties this ruling was never payed any attention because consent was always so "productive" for finding criminals.

  • berniwheeler Jul 10, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Officer did nothing wrong.. yet it does not allow an officer to just walk into your home?

    So which is it?

  • same ole story Jul 10, 2014

    The purported practice involves officers gaining entrance to a home under the pretense of investigating a 911 hang-up call
    And THEY WONDER WHY no one trusts the police!!!!!