In response to public interest in police tactics, following recent events in Ferguson, MO, the Chapel Hill Police Department has released a list of SWAT operations dating back to 2002.
WCHL requested the list to include racial identities of suspects arrested in SWAT operations.
But Chief Chris Blue, who provided the list to WCHL, wrote in an email that he did not “have a report that captures all the demographics of arrestees in all these cases.”
The reports shows that Chapel Hill Police carried out 83 SWAT operations between Jan. 14, 2002 and July 26, 2012.
One well-publicized incident occurred on Nov. 13, 2011, when a SWAT team removed protesters from the Yates Motor Co. building on Franklin Street.
Search warrants accounted for 67, or 80.7 percent of SWAT operations between 2002 and the summer of 2012.
Sixty-one of those warrants, or 91 percent, turned up drugs. Twenty, or 29.9 percent of search warrants, led police to weapons.
Seven out of 67 search warrants yielded neither weapons nor drugs.
Only one operation is listed as a “no-knock” raid. That occurred on Aug. 30, 2011, for an unspecified search warrant at 177 Ashley Forest Rd., Unit A.
Drugs and weapons were seized, and no one was injured.
There were no gun-related injuries listed throughout the report, and few injuries in general. In one instance, two officers were bitten by a pit bull.
In three buy/bust operations, suspects had drugs all three times, and weapons in two instances. Other operations included four-high-risk arrests; one hostage situation; clearing people from a building; and assisting in the protection of Vice President Joe Biden when he visited Chapel Hill in July 2010.
On Oct. 8, 2002, a SWAT team removed demonstrators from Rep. David Price’s office on Fordham Boulevard. The sit-in was staged by protesters concerned about Price’s position on the then-forthcoming Iraq War resolution.
Three people were arrested. A week later, Price voted against the resolution.http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/chapel-hill-pd-releases-swat-report/
Chapel Hill Police say the investigation into a cyclist’s recent death has come to a close and no charges will be filed against the driver in the incident.
On the morning of October 3, cyclist Pamela Lane was hit by a car near the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Hillsborough Street. She was transported to UNC Hospitals where she later died.
Police say she was was traveling southbound on the eastern sidewalk of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and the car was exiting the parking lot of the Mobil station at the Hillsborough St. intersection at the time of the collision.
Lane was reportedly traveling against the flow of traffic when she was hit.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/chpd-charges-filed-cyclist-death/
Chief Chris Blue of the Chapel Hill Police assured citizens at a Saturday forum that his department was not weaponized by the Department of Defense.
“I am not a gun lover,” Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue told a group of citizens at Chapel Hill Public Library on Saturday afternoon. “I carry one for a living. I also respect your right to carry as many as you want, as long as that’s legal to do that.
“But I will say this: I send men and women out into the street to encounter people who may have 50 of those 300 million guns in the back seat of their car.”
On August 9, unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown was shot to death in Ferguson Missouri by Police Officer Darren Wilson. The media images of police on the street in riot gear that followed sparked conversations all over the U.S. about the seeming militarization of law enforcement.
That concern was amplified after the New York Times published data about the federal 1033 program.
“This is the program the Department of Defense runs, to give local law enforcement folks surplus military equipment,” he said. “Some of what you have seen on the news – huge armored personnel carriers, mine-resistant personnel carriers, tracked vehicles, you know, like tank-kind of tracks – the Department of Defense will give you that kind of stuff. We don’t have any of that.”
What the CHPD has, he added, is a 1985 Dodge armored vehicle that has never been used. It was parked outside the library on Saturday, for all to see, after the one-hour-and-22-minute forum was concluded.
According to Blue, the 1033 program also supplied his department boots, raincoats, and filing cabinets. But the department buys its own guns, he added.
The police chief made the point that U.S. citizens own about 300 million guns just like the ones brandished by police back in 2011, during the infamous Yates Motor Company incident.
On Nov. 13 of that year, a Chapel Hill SWAT team, armed with assault rifles and dressed in riot gear, forced Occupy protesters out of the Yates building off Franklin Street.
That incident was a public relations headache for the police department of a town with a progressive reputation; and where most of the reported offenses are property crimes.
“What we’ve done since Yates is that we’ve written a policy for our SWAT team,” said Blue. “We’ve had a SWAT team since 1977. We got a policy written for them in 2012 – should’ve had one before.”
Prior to that, he added, the SWAT team just had a list of procedures to follow.
Blue took questions toward the end of the forum. One person asked if there were enough African-American uniformed officers on patrol in Chapel Hill.
The chief quickly responded there were not, adding that the department had “not done a very good job” in that area of recruitment. He also pointed out that the applicant pool has been declining in general, over recent years.
There are 176 members of the Chapel Hill Police Department. One hundred thirty-one, or 74.4 percent, are white.
Forty black employees make up 22.7 percent of the force. There are four Hispanics, and one listed as “other.”
Town Council Member Maria Palmer was in attendance, and she expressed concern about the mere handful of police officers that actually live in Chapel Hill. Palmer suggested subsidized housing for police officers and other public employees.
Blue was asked for demographic information about people stopped for searches, questioning and arrests. He directed citizens to the North Carolina Department of Justice website, where those records are available. He said the police department is working to make that information more easily accessible.
The chief also described the process of registering complaints about an officer’s conduct. He said that all complaints end up on his desk, and that they are taken seriously.
Blue added there is also a citizens advisory board, although he admitted it had not been granted legal authority to review departmental actions by looking at personnel files.
As a last resort, Blue said, dissatisfied citizens can always go to the Town Council.
Most of the citizens in attendance at Saturday’s forum were members of the Chapel Hill/ Carrboro NAACP, including its president. Minister Robert Campbell.
Blue accepted an invitation to make a presentation at the NAACP’s meeting on the first Saturday in November.
A similar public forum with Chief Walter Horton of the Carrboro Police Department and other town officials is scheduled for tonight at 7, in the Town Hall Board Room.
Carrboro Town Hall is located at 301 W. Main St.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/chapel-hill-chief-blue-forum/
Chapel Hill Police say a cyclist died Friday morning after being hit by a car on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near Hillsborough Street.
The collision occurred just after 9:30. The cyclist was transported to UNC Emergency Department and later died from injuries related to the collision. No charges have been filed at this time. Police say the investigation is on-going.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/police-investigate-cyclist-death-mlk-collision/
Town officials say retesting of groundwater near a coal ash dump under the Chapel Hill Police Department shows no contamination has entered Bolin Creek.
The coal ash pit lurking beneath the Chapel Hill Police Department headquarters was discovered last year when town officials had the land on Martin Luther King Boulevard appraised for possible sale.
Testing last fall revealed higher than normal levels of levels of arsenic, barium, chromium and lead in groundwater samples from one of two testing wells, but officials with the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources requested retesting because the turbidity levels in the samples could lead to inaccurate results.
Last month, environmental engineers from Falcon Engineering re-sampled groundwater from two wells on the property using a low-flow filter to minimize turbidity.
A newly-released report from Falcon found metal concentrations in all samples to be below state standards for contamination, indicating that groundwater on the site has not been compromised by the coal ash.
A site assessment states there’s also no evidence that contamination leached into Bolin Creek, as some environmental activists had feared.
The town is waiting to hear from NC DENR about what next steps to take next. The state agency could require clean up of the site or place limitations on its future use.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/new-tests-show-groundwater-contamination-near-chpd-coal-ash-dump/
Chapel Hill Police arrested a pair of Carrboro residents wanted on arson charges stemming from a June incident.
Shawn Edward Hoffman and Kathleen Christine Moran of Old Fayetteville Road were taken into custody on Wednesday.
Each faces felony charges of first degree arson and conspiracy to commit a felony. The pair allegedly set fire to a shed on Crest Drive in Chapel Hill earlier this summer.
Chapel Hill Police Sergeant Bryan Walker said lawn care equipment stored in the shed was found to be missing after fire fighters extinguished the flames.
“They should have been able to find remnants in the shed, even though it was burned,” says Walker. “They did not, so they determined that property was stolen.”
Hoffman is being held on $15,000 bond; Moran’s bond is set at $20,000. Both are being held in the Orange County Jail.
Chapel Hill police arrested a man who they say fled from a police checkpoint early Sunday morning.
According to police reports, Victor Emanuel Patrick Lopez of Carrboro made a quick u-turn to avoid a DWI checkpoint at Timber Hollow Drive shortly before 2 a.m.
Police pursued the car with lights and sirens, but the suspect reportedly did not stop until blocked in by patrol cars on Piney Mountain Road.
Sergeant Bryan Walker says Lopez was wanted on felony charges in Chatham County.
“When they did get the vehicle stopped, they seized a handgun from the vehicle, charged the person with carrying a concealed weapon and also discovered that he had a warrant out of Chatham County for failure to appear.”
Lopez is being held in the Orange County Jail on a $100,000 secured bond.
26 officers from half a dozen agencies participated in Sunday’s checkpoint. Officers made five DWI arrests and issued 38 citations.http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/chapel-hill-police-checkpoint-sparks-chase/
Images of heavily-armed riot police in armored trucks rolling through the streets of Ferguson, Missouri prompted nationwide scrutiny of a federal program that funnels military surplus to police and sheriff’s offices around the country.
It also has many in Orange County pondering exactly what military equipment has gone to local agencies and why.
In mid-August, the New York Times reported that law enforcement in Orange County received 44 assault rifles and six armored vehicles. The Times has since issued a correction, saying some of the numbers reported were too high. According to the latest version of the Times report, Orange County received only three armored vehicles and 22 rifles.
As WCHL reported last week, Carrboro and Hillsborough police do not have any armored vehicles in their fleets. Chapel Hill has one Peacekeeper armored truck that has never been deployed and Orange County has a V-150 Commando that has been used once to extricate a man barricaded inside a home.
The Sheriff’s Department also has two inoperable armored trucks that supply parts for the Commando, and a pair of five-ton military trucks used to move trees after storms.
No local agency reports receiving weapons from the federal program.
In a joint statement from Carrboro, Hillsborough, Chapel Hill and Orange County, each law enforcement agency reiterated its commitment to community policing and invited public feedback.
Chapel Hill and Carrboro police plan to host a series of public forums to answer questions, though the dates and times have not yet been announced.
Hillsborough police will provide an update to the Town Board on September 8 on revisions to use of force policies and the deployment of new body cameras.
Carrboro and Chapel Hill police are also planning to report to the Board of Aldermen and the Town Council in the next 30 days.
You can read the full statement here:
All law enforcement agencies in Orange County share a policing philosophy that emphasizes outreach, partnerships, and community collaboration. We listen to our residents, learn from their input, and respond to expectations. The following summarizes the many ways that each jurisdiction approaches community policing and provides transparent, accessible public information:
Although the Town of Carrboro does not possess the kinds of armored vehicles recently described in media reports, the Carrboro Police Department is gathering additional information about equipment, training and policies and will share this information with the Board of Aldermen within the next 30 days.
In the spirit of community policing and in keeping with a human services model of law enforcement, the Carrboro Police Department has a lengthy history of community engagement. Recent programs include Coffee With a Cop, Shop With a Cop, Prescription Drug Drop-off events and a Prescription Drug Drop-off Box, National Night Out, an art project to decorate the police station involving students from Carrboro Elementary School and instruction about the dangers of texting while driving in driver’s education classes at Carrboro High School. Programs under development include naloxone deployment and the creation and implementation of an in-car camera system policy in partnership with the ACLU of North Carolina.
The Town of Chapel Hill Police Department (CHPD) is equally committed to gathering information about equipment, training, and policies and will share this information with the Town Council within the next 30 days.
The CHPD practices a community policing philosophy that emphasizes outreach, partnerships and community collaboration. As a learning organization, it is committed to continued self-examination, as evidenced by many policy and procedural developments that have emerged from community input.
The Town’s Community Policing Advisory Committee has been instrumental in providing a regular forum for community input about the expectations of its police department. Through the committee’s work, the CHPD has learned important lessons over the past few years about the challenges of balancing the rights of citizens who are expressing themselves with the rights of those who are encroached upon and protecting both protestors and observers.
All CHPD officers have been or will soon be trained in crisis intervention techniques, and the department’s Community Safety Partnership Program has expanded to serve as a town-wide community watch. Neighborhood outreach efforts include the Good Neighbor Initiative and National Night Out, both of which provide an opportunity to reach more residents. The Police2Citizen (P2C) website at http://p2c.chpd.us/ allows users to view and map recent arrest records, view daily police bulletins and search for specific incidents.
The Chapel Hill Community Police Academy http://bit.ly/1nHdYzM regularly provides community members with an “inside look” at how the police department functions. These sessions include a demonstration of the one armored vehicle that the Town does own, together with a discussion of its intended use in rescue scenarios. The CHPD holds annual meetings with local media partners to hear their feedback on how well it is responding to meet their needs. A quarterly professional standards report, capturing the numbers and trends in complaints, is presented to the Community Policing Advisory Committee and made available on the Town website at http://bit.ly/1zytXGr .
The Town of Hillsborough has led conversations over the past several years on the use of force and on concerns over the militarization and perception of the police. Last December, the Hillsborough Police Department hosted a community summit that included a summary of the department’s use of force and a public discussion of a new, draft use of force policy that the department is working to implement. To improve transparency, plans were already in place to include statistics on the use of force in the 2014 and future annual reports. In addition, the police department has tested, purchased and is currently working to deploy body-worn cameras, which the Town hopes will provide better safety and accountability for officers and the public. The department does not own military style armored vehicles of any kind.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office is a community service-oriented organization dedicated and committed to the citizens of Orange County. The Sheriff’s Office provides numerous community-oriented services, such as SALT (Seniors and Law Enforcement Together), which provides daily checks on senior citizens, house checks for citizens who are out of town, DARE and GREAT training for school students, Life Track (a technology used for locating children with special needs and adults with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia who wander away from their caretaker), fingerprinting and photos for child identification, field trips at the Sheriff’s Office for local elementary and high school students, meal deliveries for OCIM, an extensively involved Community Watch program, a Domestic Violence/Crisis Unit to assist victims with domestic violence issues throughout the county, and participation in parades and various county-sponsored events. The Sheriff’s Office has participated for over 25 years in the senior citizen May Day Celebration at the community center by preparing hamburgers and hot dogs for the senior citizens.
The Sheriff’s Office has over a period of more than 20 years participated in the use of surplus federal equipment. Equipment the Sheriff’s Office has received includes four-wheel-drive pickup trucks to be used in inclement weather to patrol, assist fire rescue and EMS, transport emergency personnel to their places of employment (hospital, 911 communications, health care workers, etc.), check on stranded motorists and to serve the citizens of the county by transporting people to and from the hospital and transporting medication and food supplies to those who are unable to leave their residence due to the weather. This equipment has been used extensively during Hurricane Fran and during the numerous winter storms that we have endured here in Orange County. Orange County has one armored vehicle that was obtained more than 12 years ago. It has been used only one time since being acquired by the Sheriff’s Office, during the need to extricate an armed person who had barricaded himself inside a residence in a populated neighborhood. We have two five-ton military trucks that have been used to remove large trees from the county roadways during various severe storms, including the aftermath of Hurricane Fran. Our weapons, such as shotguns and rifles, are non-military county equipment and are never removed from the trunk of the patrol car by any officer unless the situation is endangering the lives of citizens or officers and then only with the authorization of the on-duty supervisor. All of our patrol cars are camera equipped for the safety and accountability of both the officer and the citizen and are deployed on each traffic stop. We continually strive and endeavor to seek any and all methods to assist the citizens of Orange County. We continually train our deputies and stress to them the importance of treating each individual they encounter in the manner that they would wish to be treated.
Law enforcement agencies in Orange County are open to suggestions and ideas that would benefit the community.
For more information, contact Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton at 919-918-7397 firstname.lastname@example.org, Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue at 919-968-2760 or email@example.com, and Hillsborough Police Chief Duane Hampton at 919-732-9381.
The Peacekeeper. That’s the popular nickname for the Cadillac Gage Ranger, a 4×4 armored personnel carrier that has made its way from the U.S. military to the Chapel Hill Police Department.
Lieutenant Josh Mecimore says while it’s never been used, it’s important that the department have one on hand.
“It’s something that you don’t need until you need it, and I think for us, being in a situation where we needed it and didn’t have it would be much worse that than having it and not needing it,” says Mecimore.
The 1985 Peacekeeper was decommissioned by the military then transferred to the Durham Police Department. Chapel Hill police acquired it in 2011 using state and federal programs that funnel military surplus to local law enforcement.
In addition to the armored truck, Chapel Hill police have also received military scopes and spare uniforms, but no weapons. Mecimore says maintenance on the Peacekeeper is minimal, and to date it has only ever been used for training.
If it were to be deployed, it would be used as a rescue vehicle.
“That is the reason that we got, that is the way it is intended to be used and the way it would be used if we ever have to deploy it,” says Mecimore. “If an officer is down, or a citizen is down, in an area that is unsafe for us to approach on foot or in a regular vehicle, we would use that armored vehicle to get officers in or medical personnel in to extract that officer or citizen in a safe way.”
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office also has an armored vehicle in its fleet, a V-150 Commando, but Mecimore says the uses of the vehicles are different and the logistics of deployment make it difficult for the departments to share.
“There are always issues with sharing things, because who is responsible for the upkeep, who is responsible for getting it to us when we need it? How far away is it? Is it in Hillsborough where the Sheriff’s Office is? Are you going to drive it 15 or 20 minutes and delay a response?”
Programs that transfer military surplus to local law enforcement have come under fire recently in the wake of the heavily-armed police response to protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.
The New York Times last week published information showing that nearly every county in North Carolina has received military surplus through the federal 1033 program. Law enforcement agencies based in Orange County have reportedly acquired 44 assault rifles and 6 armored vehicles, but it’s not clear which agency has what.
Mecimore says he can only account for what Chapel Hill Police have received: “I know they didn’t come here.”
Elected officials in Chapel Hill and Carrboro have said they plan to release more information on how military surplus is being used by local law enforcement. That report is forthcoming.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/chpd-one-armored-truck-weapons-military-surplus-program/
According to Department of Defense data published last week by the New York Times, law enforcement agencies in Orange County have acquired more military surplus armored vehicles than any other county in the state.
In the wake of the heavily-armed police response to protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, a federal program to direct military surplus to local law enforcement agencies is coming under renewed scrutiny. The 1033 program dates back to 1997. In the last year alone it funneled nearly half a billion dollars worth of military gear to police departments and sheriff’s offices across the nation.
Since 2006, Orange County law enforcement has acquired six armored vehicles using the 1033 program, according to the Times. By comparison, Wake County, with a population of just under one million, received only two armored vehicles, while Durham County, with twice the population of Orange, received none. Only 16 of North Carolina’s 100 counties purchased armored vehicles of any kind using the federal program. Stanly, Cabarrus and Davidson counties each boast four.
But it’s not entirely clear which Orange County law enforcement agencies have armored vehicles in their fleet, as the data provided by the Times doesn’t distinguish between local and state agencies in the area.
In 2013, as part of a nationwide investigation into the militarization of local police, the North Carolina chapter of the ACLU requested information from the state’s 60 largest police and sheriff’s departments regarding equipment procured using the 1033 program. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Chapel Hill Police Department were on that list, but because of their smaller size, Carrboro and Hillsborough police were not.
Orange County Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass responded to the query with a letter stating that the department has one armored vehicle in its fleet, a V150 Commando, that was acquired using the federal program in 2007. He noted it was purchased for incidents involving barricades or hostages and that it requires express approval of the Sheriff to be deployed. To date it has not been used.
The Chapel Hill Police Department’s senior legal advisor replied simply that the department has “no documents responsive to this request.”
UPDATE 11:55 A.M.: Chapel Hill Mayor Pro Tem Sally Greene told WCHL that she planned to meet on Monday afternoon with Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt; Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue; and Town Manager Roger Stancil to discuss the New York Times report.
Greene said to expect a “coordinated statement” sometime this week.
UPDATE 2:12 P.M.: Carrboro Alderperson Damon Seils told WCHL that Police Chief Walter Horton informed him that the Carrboro Police Department does not participate in the 1033 program, although it “may have in the past.”
Seils said that more information will be available in the coming days, as the Town of Carrboro will also release a statement to the public.
Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens posted on chapelboro.com that his town’s police department does not own any armored vehicles.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/orange-county-leads-nc-military-surplus-armored-vehicles-police/