Local News

Spring Lake police department could clean house

Posted June 15, 2009 5:26 p.m. EDT
Updated June 15, 2009 11:24 p.m. EDT

— Spring Lake Interim Police Chief Gregg Jarvies said Monday that the town's troubled police department could terminate and start over next year.

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office assumed control of law enforcement in Spring Lake on May 6, 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 resigned shortly thereafter.

Jarvies said the town cannot afford to continue paying the sheriff's office and its remaining officers, so 11 police employees could be laid off within the coming weeks, according to a proposal submitted to the Town Board Monday afternoon. Other employees would be transferred to jobs within the sheriff’s office.

Jarvies said he made the recommendation after a judge told him the only way the department would regain its power is to start over.

"It hit them (the officers) hard. You can imagine telling someone that we are going to recommend that your job is going to be gone in two weeks, (and) now you can go home and tell your family that you don't have an income,” Jarvies said.

“I’m very sad on a personal level for the families of the police officers that really didn't have anything to do with this,” said Jackie Jackson, with Citizens on the Move.

Jackson said she founded Citizens on the Move in response to concerns of corruption within the police department. She said city leaders did not act fast enough to complaints.

“While we are in the process of restructuring our police department, we need to think about restructuring our leadership as well,” she said.

Sheriff's deputies would also continue to provide law enforcement for the town while the police department is restructured under the proposal. That could cost the city as much as $90,000 a month, Jarvies said.

Officers with better training would be hired by February and would eventually take back policing the town from the sheriff's department, Jarvies said.

More on police probe

Indictments allege that Coulter participated in an April 2008 home invasion in which three men were held at gunpoint and that he asked subordinate officers to falsify a report about a September raid on a motel room in which $2,900 was seized. Whittington allegedly stole that money from the police department's evidence room and tried to cover it up, according to an indictment.

Brown resigned the following day, and reports that he and another officer were shredding files in the department prompted a judge to order the State Bureau of Investigation to take control of all Spring Lake Police Department files.

Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis has 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.

Spring Lake officials had named Sgt. Mack Utley III as acting police chief before turning to Jarvies.

Jarvies spent 32 years with the Chapel Hill Police Department, including seven as chief. He also has been a consultant for the Illinois State Police and a guest lecturer at North Carolina State University.