State News

Spring Lake votes in favor of local police force

Posted June 29, 2009 2:11 p.m. EDT
Updated June 29, 2009 7:08 p.m. EDT

— Residents of Spring Lake will see a reduced law enforcement presence beginning Wednesday.

The town Board of Aldermen voted 3-1 Monday in favor of maintaining the local police department and against paying sheriff’s deputies to provide protection.

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.

Since that time, the county had been providing four deputies per shift to the town, but could not do so indefinitely without compensation, Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler said Thursday. Butler asked the town for a contract to continue county protection.

Former Chapel Hill police chief Gregg Jarvies, hired to stabilize the department while the town searches for a full-time replacement, had proposed that he fire the department's remaining 11 officers and rebuild the department while the sheriff's deputies patrol the town.

The board voted down that proposal, and declined to pay the $203,506 required to continue patrols by sheriff’s deputies. Starting Wednesday, sheriff’s deputies will provide “zone coverage” to the town, the equivalent of one deputy per shift.

Chief District Judge Elizabeth Keever has ordered that the department complete a thorough evaluation of all employees before she will consider restoring policing powers.

The town budget, with takes effect Wednesday, provides funds to pay the 11 remaining members of the Spring Lake force, although they are not allowed to investigate crimes or respond to 911 calls. The officers who remain on the payroll are participating in training exercises.

The aldermen said the decision was largely budget-based -- the town can not afford to pay both the $1.59 million budgeted for the police department and the $1.2 million that the sheriff’s deputies would cost.

"I feel like, at this particular time, we need to keep the officers. They need to start accepting applications for new officers to get this ball rolling," Alderman Fredricka Sutherland said.

Alderman Richard Higgins cast the dissenting vote. "We going to have to get additional coverage for the town," he said. "Right now, we can't police the town with the current police force."

 

The board also voted Monday to retain Allen Coats, the town finance director, to serve as interim town manager. Town Manager Larry Faison resigned last week. Alderman James O'Garra said the decision was based on Faison's handling of police department issues in the town of more than 8,000 people, The Fayetteville Observer reported.