Local News

Fayetteville agrees to let court rule on consent search issue

Posted March 12, 2012 4:31 a.m. EDT
Updated March 12, 2012 2:50 p.m. EDT

— City officials have agreed to a pending court order that Fayetteville will not try to impose any moratorium on police searches following traffic stops until a lawsuit over the procedure is resolved.

The City Council voted 8-2 in January to halt so-called consent searches of vehicles for 120 days while a consultant investigated claims that the practice disproportionately targets black drivers.

Some residents and local groups, including a minority lawyers association and the NAACP, raised concerns a year ago that the police force may be illegally profiling black drivers.

Police Chief Tom Bergamine and the Southern States Police Benevolent Association decried the council's decision, saying it was unlawful and that consent searches are an important law enforcement tool. They filed a lawsuit seeking to resume the practice, and a judge recently granted an injunction to allow the searches to continue.

The Fayetteville Police Department has changed its consent search procedure by requiring officers to use written consent forms when performing searches.

City Attorney Karen McDonald said that a court hearing scheduled for Monday afternoon was canceled, and Fayetteville and the PBA will agree to let the lawsuit run its course to determine whether the city has the authority to halt the searches.

McDonald said she plans to concentrate on defending the city's actions in the lawsuit.

The city's consultant, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, is expected to present its recommendations Monday night to the Fayetteville City Council.

Outgoing City Manager Dale Iman will be present at the first City Council meeting since he announced Friday that he is resigning. Council members asked Iman to step down because they were unhappy that he opposed their vote to end consent searches.