What a difference a month can make.
The Greensboro City Council voted down a resolution that would have required police officers to have a consent-to-search form signed before conducting a consent search.
The vote was Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Councilmembers Marikay Abuzuaiter, Nancy Hoffmann, Goldie Wells and Sharon Hightower against and Councilmembers Tammi Thurm, Justin Outling, Michelle Kennedy and Yvonne Johnson in favor of requiring the signed written consent forms.
The council discussed the matter at length with Hightower definitely the councilmember on the bubble. At times she said she was in favor of the resolution and at times against. All the other councilmembers had their positions staked out, so it was a contest to see who could convince Hightower to vote with them and the noes won.
Police Chief Brian James, who was opposed to the resolution, was allowed to speak more on the topic than he was at either of the work sessions on the topic.
Hightower said that the real issue that nobody was discussing was the disparity in traffic stops for African Americans.
Wells said that having a written consent form signed would not change the disparity in traffic stops.
Wells also noted that of the comparable cities in the state, Greensboro was the only one where all the officers were equipped with body worn cameras. She said, “What better evidence is there than seeing something.”
Hoffmann noted that the police officer’s actions were already being documented by the body worn camera video and said, “It almost feels antediluvian to go back to paper and pencil or paper and pen. We are almost into the second quarter of the 21st century.”
Requiring written consent forms was Thurm’s baby. She brought it up almost a year ago and pushed for a work session on the topic for about six months. She supported the resolution requiring signed written consent forms but said she didn’t like the loophole that allowed the police officer to document the consent with the body worn camera video if someone consented to the search but refused to sign the form. She said that her fear was “that the loophole would become the norm rather than the rule.”
At the August work session that the City Council held on requiring signed written consent forms, the vote was 6-3 in favor of having the city manager prepare a resolution requiring signed consent forms for the Sept. 15 meeting.
Both Vaughan and Hoffmann voted in favor of having the resolution prepared and then voted against the resolution.
The Greensboro Police Officers Association had strongly opposed the resolution.
After the written consent form motion failed, Vaughan made a motion that would require standardized language that would inform the person that it was a voluntary search, they had the right to refuse and that at any time they could revoke their consent and the search would stop. Consent searches will be documented, as they are now, with body worn camera video and incident reports completed by the officer after the search or after a request to search is denied.
That motion passed by the same 5-4 vote that the resolution requiring signed written consent forms failed.