The Greensboro City Council on Tuesday, Aug. 11 agreed to require Greensboro police officers have a form signed before they conduct a consent search.

Councilmember Justin Outling asked a lot of questions about how much of a burden this would be to the police officers conducting the search and concluded that it would not be much of burden. He said, “I don’t see how that is a real additional burden, memorializing what is done on a form.”

City Manager David Parrish brought up an issue that the City Council never discussed: “If the individual says for instance, I don’t mind if you search but I don’t want to sign the form, I think that is where we would have to have some clarity around what to do then.”

Councilmember Tammi Thurm brought up two issues that are going to make getting a form signed more of a burden and more complicated. Thurm, who is the councilmember who has been pushing the written consent form, said that she wanted the police officer to read the form to the person before getting them to sign it. She also said she wants the form in five languages.

Thurm also said that she thought the form could be simplified a great deal and that the form in all five languages should fit on one piece of paper.

Police Chief Brian James was interrupted when he was trying to make the point that deciding that having a form signed is not a burden seems to ignore the conditions under which police officers often make traffic stops.

Others have said that if it is a beautiful mild sunny day, going back to the car and getting a form to be signed might not be a burden. But at night, in pouring rain with the wind is howling around blowing the rain sideways, it would be more of a burden. In that case the officer may have a flashlight, a form, a pen, an upset driver and traffic whizzing by splashing water all over everything and it seems likely that getting a form signed before searching the vehicle could turn into a long ordeal.

Another issue that the City Council didn’t discuss is the fact that the whole idea of having someone physically sign a piece of paper is taking a step back from a technology standpoint. Most of the “paper work” police officers and everyone else does in 2020 is not on paper but on a computer device.