Fake 911 calls, made up by several Durham police officers, were used as a tactic to try to convince residents to allow them to search their homes. The scandal has outraged many residents as well as lawyers in the area. According to a July 14 RT report, police targeted homes where individuals with outstanding warrants were thought to be living. After arriving at the residence, officers told them that dispatch had received a 911 call from that address, when no such call had been made, Indy Week explained.
Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez says the fake 911 calls were never a part of official policy and he claims it has happened only one time. Last month, the department officially banned the practice, according to a memo from Lopez. The fake 911 calls controversy was first brought to light back in May when Officer A.B. Beck testified in court that he told a local woman that he had to inspect her home because police had received a 911 call concerning that address. Once Beck entered, he discovered marijuana and arrested the woman on pot possession charges for a few blunt roaches and a pot grinder.
“When Beck took the witness stand, he admitted to fabricating the 911 story in order to enter the house. Beck testified that his true intent was to serve a warrant, though he never produced the warrant in the courtroom,” IndyWeek wrote in their report. “Beck further testified that the 911 ruse was permitted under a department policy in cases where domestic violence is alleged, recalled Morgan Canady, the defendant's lawyer.”
According to the transcript of the exchange provided by Tucker, Beck also confessed to the defense attorney that he “entered the house based on a lie,” and considers this tactic on par with departmental “policy for domestic violence warrants.”
Durham County Chief District Judge Marcie Morey responded by dismissing the pot charges against the defendant. "You cannot enter someone's house based on a lie," the justice expressed.
In response to the scandal, Lopez issued the following statement:
"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," Lopez said in a memo to his cops. "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 also said that there will be some form of discipline for officers found in violation of the department's policy. However, Durham's City Manager, Tom Bonfield, wants to ensure that the officers in question are adequately punished and he vowed to look into the allegations.
"If confirmed that this tactic was used, the city manager agrees that it is entirely unacceptable," Bonfield said through a city spokesperson. "This tactic is not a policy, nor an acceptable practice of the department for any reason."