Police chief: 'New day' for Spring Lake
Posted February 14, 2010 2:38 p.m. EST
Updated February 14, 2010 7:46 p.m. EST
Spring Lake, N.C. — Spring Lake officials and residents hope Monday will mark a new era for the town: the return of a corruption-free police department.
Spring Lake police officers will patrol the town again, nine months after the department was stripped of law enforcement authority amid a criminal investigation that forced the resignation of Chief A.C. Brown.
"We're moving forward, and there will not be a repeat of the past problems. It's just a new day," the new chief, Troy McDuffie, vowed.
The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office took over duties in Spring Lake on May 6, 2009, after two officers were arrested on charges including home invasion and falsifying evidence. Brown resigned amid reports that he and another officer were shredding files, and a judge put the State Bureau of Investigation in charge of all police files.
McDuffie, who has been in law enforcement for over two decades, was sworn in as chief in December. He said he is rebuilding the force by hiring new officers and creating a stronger leadership team.
Only nine of the two dozen officers who used to work in Spring Lake are returning, so over half of the force is new.
"Now we have a nice, clean, new department, ready to go and ready to work," local activist Jackie Jackson said.
Jackson founded the group Citizens on the Move after the scandal that rocked the police department. She said the group will continue to press for the force to act ethically.
"We're going to be here as a positive reinforcement for the police department, as well as our leaders of the town," Jackson said.
The newly reconstituted Spring Lake police force will face some limitations initially. During a transition period, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office will continue to handle felony cases.
Mayor Pro-Tem James O'Garra said that regaining some power is a step in the right direction for regaining the public's trust in a department that has weathered quite a storm.
"I pretty much feel good about it," O'Garra said. "The people have really, really expressed that they want their police department back, so that's going to be a wonderful thing."