Citizens group demands answers about Spring Lake police problems
Posted May 13, 2009 11:03 p.m. EDT
Updated May 13, 2009 11:43 p.m. EDT
Spring Lake, N.C. — Residents of Spring Lake demanded answered Wednesday evening about the town's troubled police department. Problems erupted last week when two members of the 20-person force were charged with offenses and the police chief resigned.
"We are the citizens, and we have questions that need to be answered,” said Jackie Jackson, with Citizens on the Move.
Cumberland County Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler has been investigating felonies in the town since 2007, when District Attorney Ed Grannis said he was concerned about the department's training and ability.
Jackson said she founded Citizens on the Move in response to those concerns.
"I am embarrassed, our image as been destroyed,” Jackson said.
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.
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.
In light of the recent problems, Jackson organized Wednesday's meeting between residents and town leaders. Alderman Richard Higgins warned those in attendance that putting the police department back together may take a while.
"It is going to take time,” he said.
Alderman James O'Garra suggested the scandal may not be over.
"There is the possibility that more people could be arrested,” he said.
However, O'Garra said there is progress in finding a new leader for the police department.
"We basically have already found an individual. But we can't do too much until the SBI says something,” O'Garra said.
Resident Leon Lucas said it is time to look at everyone in a position of power.
"I don't believe right now, we are getting the services that we need. I do believe it is time for some change in leadership,” he said.
Law enforcement tried to reassure other people at the meeting who were concerned about safety.
"We are out here 24/7,” said Maj. Wright, with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.
"I do see the patrol cars out there. I do see deputies’ involved. I appreciate it,” a resident said.
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 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.