Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Police chief to cops: Stop lying about 911 calls

The Police Chief in Durham, North Carolina, banned the practice of inventing a 911 call to gain entry to search. For example, an officer knocks and says there was a 911 call from that house. The tenant grants entry without a warrant, and officers use the opportunity to search for incriminating items to arrest the tenant.

According to testimony received on May 27, 2014, several Durham police officers identified homes of people with outstanding warrants and gained entry by saying that they were dispatched after a 911 call was received, and that they were checking that everyone was safe. Actually, officers knew that no such call was made.

In June, Officer A.B. Beck admitted on the in court that he made up the existence of a 911 call, saying that the 911 tactic was licit when domestic abuse was alleged. There does not seem to have been domestic abuse alleged in this case, just a woman with two blunts and a pot grinder who may, or may not, have had an outstanding warrant against her. Though the officer said that he had intended to serve her with an outstanding warrant, no warrant was shown to either the woman or the court. The judge threw out the case saying, that police ”cannot enter someone’s house based on a lie.”

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez officially banned the 911 tactic in a memo 10 days later. “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,” said the memo. “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 denied that lying about a 911 call was standard practice to gain entry to a home without a warrant, telling ”This has never occurred. We want to find out what…led him [the officer] to believe that this is something he should do.”

Emphasizing that he and his staff are only aware of the one incident, Lopez said that the department has launched an internal investigation into the practice, and reportedly has not ruled out disciplinary action against any officers found to have used this 911 tactic.

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