Local News

Embattled Spring Lake police get new chief

Posted December 3, 2009 9:02 a.m. EST
Updated December 3, 2009 6:15 p.m. EST

— New Spring Lake Police Chief Tory McDuffie promised Thursday to rebuild the police force that has been rocked in recent months by allegations of illegal activity and the loss of its law enforcement responsibilities.

"For the police department to be most effective, the community has to have complete confidence in the police department, and that's something I plan to bring back to this community," McDuffie said. "We got a lot of work ahead of us."

Former Spring Lake Chief A.C. Brown resigned in May amid a state investigation of the department. Gregg Jarvies, a former Chapel Hill police chief, served as interim chief until his contract ended last month.

Fifty-four applicants sought the challenge of rebuilding the department, but officials said McDuffie stood out from the rest.

The 46-year-old Fayetteville resident has been police chief in Red Springs since 2006, and officials there credited him with bringing more professionalism to the force. Like Spring Lake, the Red Springs Police Department had been under investigation before McDuffie's arrival.

Previously, he was chief deputy of the Hoke County Sheriff's Office, an officer and detective with the Fayetteville Police Department and an officer with a Texas security company contracted to perform United Nations peacekeeping duties in Bosnia. He also was a sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg.

Cumberland County deputies assumed control of law enforcement in Spring Lake on May 6, following the arrests of two officers on a variety of charges. Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler ordered Spring Lake officers to stay away from all investigations.

Indictments allege that Sgt. Darryl Eugene Coulter Sr. 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.

Sgt. Alphonzo Devonne Whittington Jr. 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 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.

Nine Spring Lake officers reaffirmed their duty to protect and serve the town during a ceremony last month, but neither McDuffie nor Town Manager Michael Uskiewicz would put a timetable Thursday for returning the officers to the street.

Authorities have said it could take another month before Spring Lake police regain their law enforcement powers.

"We have the core back now, but we need to build from there. We want to look at the economy. We want to look at the big picture. We want to put together an elite force – something the community can be proud of," Uskiewicz said. "We don't want what happened in the past to ever happen again."

McDuffie, who will earn $65,000 a year, said his first order of business is to build a patrol staff of one lieutenant and four patrol sergeants.