New chief for troubled police department

May 19, 2009 5:39:03 AM PDT
Spring Lake leaders announced Monday they've found someone to take over their troubled police department in the wake of corruption allegations.Former Chapel Hill chief Gregg Jarvies will step in while the town searches for a permanent chief.

The move comes after the arrest of two Spring Lake officers and the abrupt resignation of former chief A.C. Brown earlier this month. The police department lost its law enforcement powers, and the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office is currently patrolling the streets of the town.

Jarvies' first day on the job was Monday and he will oversee the department through September 1. That could be extended with mutual consent.

Jarvies told Eyewitness News he knows he faces a huge challenge and that he thought long and hard before accepting the town's offer to be interim chief. While it's only a temporary position, Jarvies says he is not going to be just a caretaker.

"It's not going to be easy, it's always tough to get trust back after you have given it up," Jarvies said. "It's going to be a challenge I am willing to undertake."

Jarvies said one of the first things he did Monday was meet with sheriff's deputies and town leaders. He thinks training needs to be priority.

"I think there has been a lot of training, but I'm not sure it has been training pointed towards the needs of the dept and the community," Jarvies said. "Clearly we have got to make our case to the sheriff, the DA the state of NC that the people who go out and police for this agency are trustworthy, they are capable and they are trained."

Jarvies' job is both part-time and temporary. He will work three to four days a week, and part of his job will also be helping the town find a permanent chief.

Spring Lake leaders originally named Sgt. Mack Utley interim chief when Chief Brown resigned May 6.

Brown's resignation followed several developments.

First, the police department lost its felony investigative powers 18 months ago after allegedly botching a murder investigation.

Then on May 4, Sgt. Alphonzo Devonne Whittington, Jr. and Sgt. Darryl Eugene Coulter, Sr. were arrested. Whittington is accused of taking cash from an evidence room, and Coulter faces a long list of charges including kidnapping and obstruction of justice.

Soon after the arrests, the department was stripped of law enforcement authority and Cumberland County Sheriff Moose Butler said in a strongly worded letter - hand delivered to Brown - that he couldn't trust statements or information gathered by Spring Lake in its investigations.

At a town meeting last week, some residents called for a clean sweep of the police department. Initially, Jarvies doesn't think that's necessary, but says his expectations for the department are high and he knows restoring the public's trust will a tough sell.

"And if we can bring some stability back, and put some trust back in the department and get these officers back on the street, then we have done good for all law enforcement in North Carolina," he said.


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