Police Admit to Faking 911 Calls to Illegally Enter Homes
A Durham, North Carolina police officer recently admitted under oath that he has lied about 911 calls in order to gain entry to homes without a warrant. He also admitted that the actions were part of official department policy. Police claim the practice of falsifying information in order to conduct a search is perfectly legal.
The practice came to light during a possession hearing in late May. The defendant had been charged with marijuana possession – marijuana that had been found during a search sparked by a falsified emergency phone call. Officer A.B. Beck went to the woman’s home in February and told her that a 911 call had been placed from her address. He told her that the caller had hung up and that he needed to investigate the home to make sure that everyone was safe. No such call had ever been made. He then entered the home and found two blunts and a weed grinder.
During the hearing, Beck admitted to this practice, but stated it was a-okay because it had been his intention to get a warrant – and the Chief of Police allowed the tactic anyway.
In this case, the District Attorney dropped the charges, due to the evidence having been gathered during an illegal search. Because the officer had entered the house on a lie, it was ruled that the defendant did not give voluntary and informed consent.
Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez has since sent out an internal memo banning the practice:
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. 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.
– Jose L. Lopez, Sr., Chief of Police
Lopez also denied the claims that the practice of falsifying 911 calls was part of official policy. Nor, he said, is it a common practice. “This has never occurred,” he told local reporters. “We want to find out what…led him [the officer] to believe that this is something he should do.”
The Durham Police Department has also launched an internal investigation. If Officer Beck’s claims are true, Lopez states it would be a clear violation of department policy and “in some legal circles, a violation of the Constitution.” He denied that the officer would be fired, but did remark he was considering “progressive discipline.” Durham’s City Manager, Tom Bonfield, also said that the practice has never been any part of department policy. However, this revelation also begs the question: are these tactics used elsewhere?