Local News

Questionable police tactic concerns Durham chief

Posted July 9, 2014 6:19 p.m. EDT
Updated July 10, 2014 6:01 a.m. EDT

— A police officer's testimony that he used a questionable approach to make an arrest in a drug case prompted Durham prosecutors to dismiss the charges and has prompted the city's police chief to investigate whether anyone else uses the method.

"We are looking into it as a precautionary measure," Chief Jose Lopez said Wednesday. "I have no indication that any other officer has used this tactic. I just want to make sure no one else does."

The purported practice involves officers gaining entrance to a home under the pretense of investigating a 911 hang-up call.

Durham County Public Defender Morgan Canady said that was the situation involving the arrest of one her clients, who was charged after an officer told her a call had been made from her home and that he wanted to make sure everyone inside was safe.

The officer, A. Beck, testified during a hearing on May 27 that the tactic is something police "always do."

Lopez said that's not the case.

"We don't have a training system or policy that uses lying to get consent," he said.

After learning about Beck's testimony, he sent a memo, dated June 6, ordering any officers who might use the 911 hang-up story to stop immediately.

"I just wanted to make sure that officers know that this is not a practice," he said. "This leads the community to believe that this is a practice that we have. It really is not."

Beverly Thompson, a spokeswoman for Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield, said in a statement that he was aware of the investigation and agrees that it is "entirely unacceptable."

"This is basically someone who had a misconception who added one and one and came up with three," Lopez added. "Now that we see it, we are addressing it. That's what's important that we, as an organization, are learning. We won't repeat these things."