Town in jeopardy of losing police department

April 27, 2009 8:06:06 PM PDT
The Town of Spring Lake may lose its police department.

Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis has asked a special grand jury to investigate several bills of indictment involving the police department.

The grand jury could give the D.A. the power to shut down the police department.

That action was the result of an allegedly botched murder investigation of a 3-year-old girl in 2006. Investigators say Anikah Burr was killed by her mother's boyfriend, Dominic Best. He is facing murder charges.

The Spring Lake Police Department lost its authority to handle felony cases 18 months ago, so the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office has been handling those cases.

On Monday night, Spring Lake leaders issued a resolution asking the state attorney general to restore the town's police department powers.

"Its quicker response time, and local law enforcement the citizens will be able to quicker response time, for police officers to take care of our citizens here in Spring Lake," Town Alderman Fredericka Sutherland said.

The move is seen as a show of support for Spring Lake's Police Chief A.C. Brown.

Chief Brown tells Eyewitness News his department continues to work on regaining control of felony cases that have been stripped away.

The State Bureau of Investigation is also looking into allegations that an officer may have taken nearly $3,000 from the department's evidence vault.

If the department shuts down, Cumberland County Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler would oversee the department.

"We've assisted them whenever they needed us and had requested us," Sheriff Butler said. "But 18 months ago we had to pick up the felony -- all felony cases out there because the court just will not prosecute felony cases out there."

Butler said the extra workload has stretched his officers thin. He asked county commissioners to reimburse his office more than $117,000 from Spring Lake to cover the cost of handling that town's felony cases.

"I'm not looking forward to anymore than what we're doing, and I'd like to be able to turn what we're doing back over to the Spring Lake Police Department," Butler said. "As the sheriff, I have jurisdiction countywide. And whatever I have to do to help the people out there law enforcement wise, I'm going to do the very best I can."

So far no order has been issued and Spring Lake Mayor Ether Clark says Chief Brown is getting a bum rap.

"And when you attack a police department who are public servants, they are here to protect the people," Clark said. "That sort of undermines the public confidence in what we're doing. Do you still have confidence in the chief, yes I do I sure do."

Sources close to the investigation hinted that the department would be shut down Monday. But Eyewitness News has learned that will not happen.

Instead, another special grand jury will convene next Monday to continue working on the case.


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