Despite intense opposition by the Greensboro Police Officers Association (GPOA), the Greensboro City Council is set to approve a new policy on consent searches by police officers at its virtual meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 5:30 p.m.
A “consent search” occurs when a person gives consent to have their vehicle or home searched. Officers who do not have probable cause to search a vehicle or residence must receive “consent” from the owner or operator of the vehicle before conducting a search. If an officer has probably cause no consent is necessary.
If the person does not give consent and the officer does not have probable cause then the officer cannot conduct the search.
At the August 11 work session, a majority of the City Council voted in favor of having the resolution requiring written consent prepared for the Sept. 15 meeting.
The new policy that will be up for approval will require the officer to not only request permission to search but to advise the person of the reason for the search, the fact that consent must be given and can be withdrawn at any time during the search and have the person giving consent sign a form that establishes consent has been freely given.
The officer is also required to provide the form in the “preferred language” of the person giving consent. The new police directive states, “For persons granting consent via a Consent to Search Form and for whom English is not their preferred language, a Consent to Search Form in their language will be provided or if not available, an interpreter will be provided to read and explain the Consent to Search form.”
According to the Greensboro Planning Department more than 37 languages are spoken in Greensboro.
The policy also states that if the person cannot read the form must be read to them in its entirety and if the person consents but refuses to sign the form the consent to search will be documented with the police body worn camera video.
A report from the GPOA showed that in other jurisdictions when written consent forms were required the number of consent searches dropped considerably.
The GPOA report also cited examples where handguns were found as the result of consent searches.
The Greensboro City Council may not be defunding the police as in some other cities, but according to the GPOA the City Council is making the job of a Greensboro police officer more difficult.