Officers may have to obtain written permission for search

September 21, 2011 5:52:23 PM PDT
About a year ago the City of Fayetteville reviewed the number of vehicle searches made after officers stopped black motorists and found an unusually large amount of stops and searches were happening in the black community.

The Fayetteville Police Department has defended its policy for stopping and searching drivers.

The department says during the first four months of this year, its consent searches have taken eight illegal weapons, more than 850 pounds of illegal drugs, and more than $100 in drug money off the streets.

"Right now we abide by state and federal law which says that consent searches are legal and that verbal consent is enough to go ahead and conduct the search," said Lt. Christopher Davis, Fayetteville Police Department.

Fayetteville City Council is aggressively pushing to have officers obtain written permission before conducting vehicle searches after stops.

"That's when a citizen is given the opportunity and ask for consent to search," Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne said."If they agree, we'd just like for them to sign to say that they agree, and that's a form that's used by the state Highway Patrol [and] used by the Sheriff's department in Cumberland County. We think it's a reasonable accommodation."

Jimmy Buxton, president of the Fayetteville NAACP, says it's a step in the right direction.

He says more needs to be done because he feels a few officers are still practicing racial profiling.

Buxton points to a recent case where a black female was stopped because a light was out over her license plate.

"She was asked to get out of her car, show her identification and all three passengers in there were asked to do the same thing," Buxton explained. "Why? Because of a tail light? And just because they were black, and that's something we have to stop."

Buxton doesn't believe much has changed since the NAACP and black defense lawyers brought the issue to the table.

City council is fast-tracking the new policy, and it may be in place as early as the first week of October.

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