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Town leaders defend Spring Lake police department

Spring Lake officials gave a spirited defense of the town's police department against suggestions and questions about its commitment to public safety.

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SPRING LAKE, N.C. — Spring Lake Mayor Ethel Clark and Town Manager Larry Faison gave a spirited defense Friday of Police Chief A.C. Brown against suggestions and questions about his department's commitment to public safety.

"This is preposterous," Faison said during a news conference. "It's Busch league and places them (the media) in the company of paparazzi-style journalism."

Clark and Faison answered few questions about the problems that have plagued the town's police department for years but voiced support for Brown, who has been police chief since 2004. He declined to comment when asked about his leadership.

"Chief Brown has strengths and weaknesses, as we all do," Faison said.

Faison said Friday severe budget shortfalls in recent years have hurt the department.

Resident Leon Lucas said he doesn't buy the explanation that the town's finances have hamstrung the department.

"I know that money is short, but then something else is going on that I don't know," Lucas said.

This week, a special grand jury considered indictments in District Attorney Ed Grannis' case against the department, but it's unclear what the indictments cover.

Two months ago, Grannis asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into allegations that an officer took $2,900 from the evidence vault. No one has been charged.

Also this week, a judge ordered the department to turn over all evidence in nine of its felony cases.

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office has handled felony investigations in the town since July 2007, when another judge ordered it at the DA's request. At the time, Grannis voiced concerns that the Spring Lake police force didn't have the capacity to investigate the more serious crimes.

"Certainly, we have challenges, as all departments have challenges – financial challenges, retention challenges, training challenges," Brown said. "However, we have prioritized our detectives to prepare for investigations. They have executed well the misdemeanor crime so far."

Faison said that the department has 22 sworn personnel. The chief has restructured the department and assigning three officers as detectives, which should, he said, enable it to begin handling property felony cases.

Town officials said that an internal review of the department will be released in the coming weeks.


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