Local News

Judge: Spring Lake Police Can't Handle Homicides

Posted July 17, 2007 5:47 p.m. EDT
Updated July 17, 2007 6:08 p.m. EDT

— A Cumberland County judge has short-circuited attempts by Spring Lake officials to have local police investigate murders in the town.

Chief District Judge Beth Keever issued a memo Monday to Cumberland County magistrates, saying Spring Lake officers "are not authorized to request the issuance of felony homicide warrants." Keever said the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office is in charge of all homicide investigations in Spring Lake.

Two weeks ago, District Attorney Ed Grannis asked the sheriff's office to assume control of all felony investigations in Spring Lake by Oct. 1. He maintained that the Spring Lake Police Department lacked the manpower and the training to investigate such cases.

Spring Lake officials said they plan on joint investigations of felonies between local police and the Cumberland County deputies. Those statements prompted Grannis to ask for Keever's intervention.

Jimmy Henly Jr., a 14-year veteran of the Spring Lake police force, said the move should have occurred years ago.

"If you're a victim of crime (in Spring Lake), you're at risk of not being protected," said Henley, who was a patrol and tactical team commander, a narcotics detective, chief of detectives and interim assistant police chief in the department before leaving in 2002.

"They started cutting back on what they considered luxuries and we considered necessities as far as investigating officers and the training that goes with it," he said.

Henley said that, when he left the department, he told county officials that the sheriff's department should take over investigations in Spring Lake.

Spring Lake officials declined to comment Tuesday about the dispute.

But John Jackson, the town's attorney, said he plans to meet with the Spring Lake Board of Aldermen next Monday to discuss the town's legal options.

"Because we're in the county, (the sheriff's) deputies have every right to enforce the law within the municipal boundaries," Jackson said. "What we're talking about here is an exclusion -- to say the town of Spring Lake cannot do things."