The Greensboro City Council will hold a work session on Tuesday, Aug. 11 on consent searches conducted by the Greensboro Police Department (GPD).
A consent search often occurs during a traffic stop when the police officer requests the driver’s “consent” to search the vehicle. One reason it has become an issue is that people who police say consented to the search later say that they didn’t give permission or that they didn’t understand that they could refuse to allow the search.
This issue has been on the City Council back burner for months. Councilmember Tammi Thurm, who has been pushing for this work session, brings the issue up periodically, and one of the reasons given for the long delay is that the City Council was waiting for a recommendation from the Greensboro Criminal Justice Advisory Commission (GCJAC), which has now been completed.
The recommendation from the GCJAC is that the Greensboro Police Department use a written form for consent searches. Currently, officers are required to inform the person that they have the right to refuse, but a signature on a form granting consent is not required.
In explaining the reasons that it advocated for a signed consent form, the recommendation from GCJAC states: “Rationale. A signed consent form provides persons being searched with the opportunity to provide documented and informed consent to a search. This measure will increase transparency and accountability among GPD as well as allow person to exercise their constitutional rights.”
The GCJAC recommendation also states, “Overall, we found that the GPD’s current policy on consent searches was very comprehensive. In looking at this policy compared to others across the state (High Point, Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Charlotte, Durham, Asheville and Fayetteville), the policy allows for a great level of transparency. With the recommended changes to the form, we feel that the Greensboro Police Department will be providing more transparency and giving the residents the ability to fully understand the consent to search agreement.”
GCJAC also recommended that the officer be required to read the form to the person being searched and that the fact that a person can withdraw their consent at anytime during the search be emphasized.