Local News

Spring Lake residents look for answers amid police probe

Posted May 12, 2009 12:12 a.m. EDT
Updated May 12, 2009 8:13 a.m. EDT

— Residents of Spring Lake came out to a town meeting Monday to ask about the arrests of two police officers and the resignation of the chief.

Cumberland County Sheriff's Office assumed control of law enforcement in Spring Lake a week ago, following the arrests of Sgt. Darryl Eugene Coulter Sr. and Sgt. Alphonzo Devonne Whittington Jr. on a variety of charges. Spring Lake Police Chief A.C. Brown also resigned amid allegations he was shredding files.

"They need to sit down with these citizens. These citizens weren't here because they were happy with the town,” said James Welch, former assistant Spring Lake police chief.

The town board did not address how the probe is being handled at its regular meeting Monday. However, they did go into closed session.

Some residents of the town of more than 8,000 said they were left without answers.

"When you have corruption going on in there, you are concerned and you are worried. I think those are the issues that should have been addressed tonight,” resident Jackie Jackson said.

According to Mayor Pro Tem James O’Garra, board members discussed the police controversy behind closed doors. But the mayor avoided talking about the issue with the media.

“It takes time to restructure and do things in a proper manner. You just don't tell everyone everything you are going to do before you do it,” Mayor Ethel Clark said.

Brown, who had been with the Spring Lake Police Department since the 1990s and became chief in 2004, said he was shredding personal documents and not official files. He resigned May 5.

Coulter and Whittington were arrested on May 4. Coulter was charged with 20 counts, including three each of second-degree kidnapping, simple assault and assault with a deadly weapon. Whittington was charged with 11 counts, including three counts of felony larceny and one count of felony embezzlement.

The law enforcement takeover came after Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis dismissed all pending misdemeanor cases in Spring Lake, saying that he suspects senior officers of lying and directing other officers to fabricate facts in police reports.