A police officer has admitted that cops deliberately lied about 911 calls in order to search homes without warrants. The tactic allegedly used by Durham, North Carolina, officers may have violated both police policy and the Constitution.
“It has recently been brought to my attention that some officers have informed citizens that there has been a 911 hang-up call from their residence in order to obtain consent to enter for the actual purpose of looking for wanted persons on outstanding warrants,” a memo from Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez stated.
The chief’s memo was prompted by Officer A.B. Beck’s testimony in a drug case. On May 27 Beck admitted under oath that he falsely told a woman there had been a 911 call from her home. Beck claimed he was checking on the safety of the home’s residents. He admitted that there had been no call, and instead it was merely a ruse designed to get access to the home and search for a person named in a warrant.
“Effective immediately no officer will inform a citizen that there has been any call to the emergency communications center, including a hang-up call, when there in fact has been no such call,” Lopez ordered cops in his memo.
Chief Learns that Police are Violating Policy from Media
Lopez was apparently not aware of the warrantless searches until an article about Beck’s testimony appeared in a local newspaper called Indy Week.
The article included the following disturbing testimony Beck gave to a defense attorney, Morgan Canady:
“Did you say there was a 911 hang-up?” Canady asked.
“Yes,” Beck answered
“But there was not a 911 hang-up,” Canady said
“No,” Beck responded.
“So you entered the house based on a lie,” Canady said.
“Yes,” Beck answered.
“And this is your policy for domestic violence warrants,” Canady asked.
“Yes,” Beck answered.
After telling the resident that he needed to check on the family’s safety, Beck searched the home and found marijuana. The resident who was not named in news articles was charged with possession and eventually put on trial.
Beck’s testimony prompted Durham County Chief District Judge Marcia Morey to suppress the evidence obtained from the search. Without the evidence the prosecutor was forced to drop the charges.
“You cannot enter someone’s house based on a lie,” Morey told Beck.
City Investigating Policies
“This is never encouraged, this is never trained,” Lopez said of the searches in a conversation with TV station Channel 11, “and we want to find out what led him to believe this is something he should do.”
The city of Durham and the police department are investigating the allegations. Lopez said the incident with Beck was the only one of which he was aware. He also said that officers could face discipline if he finds more evidence of such violations.
“If confirmed that this tactic was used, the city manager agrees that it is entirely unacceptable,” a spokesman for Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield told Channel 11. “This tactic is not a policy, nor an acceptable practice of the department for any reason.”
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