The Greensboro City Council is supposed to vote on Tuesday, Sept. 15 on a policy requiring police officers have a form signed before conducting a consent search.
A consent search is when a police officer requests permission to search, usually a vehicle, and the driver agrees to allow the officer to search. If a police officer has “probable cause” to search, the officer has a legal right to search and is not required to obtain consent.
The Greensboro Police Officers Association (GPOA) continues to be opposed to requiring a written consent form to be signed prior to the search, and GPOA attorney Amiel Rossabi sent another letter dated Sept. 1 to Mayor Nancy Vaughan and members of the City Council this week expressing the GPOA’s opposition, that letter can be found here: https://www.greensboropoa.com/
In that letter Rossabi states that Vaughan called him after the first letter to complain about “three alleged inaccuracies in the letter; (a) that the City Council does not have anything to do with the hiring of the police chief; (b) that the City Council did not take a vote on August 11; and (c) that the City Council has never requested additional police presence downtown.”
Rossabi notes that at about 1:26 in the video recording of the meeting Councilmember Justin Outling asked for an explanation of what he had “voted” for. He also notes that after reviewing the video it was apparent that “several councilmembers believed that a vote was taken.”
He also notes that although it is the city manager’s responsibility to hire the police chief that from his long experience dealing with city government he believes that “that hire has never happened without the extensive involvement and approval of the City Council.”
Rossabi included eight exhibits attached to his letter including information about consent searches and what has happened at other police departments when signed forms were required for a consent search. The documentation generally shows that the number of consent searches decreases after a written consent form is required.
Exhibit C is a memo detailing four recent consent searches conducted by Greensboro police officers. Rossabi states this is in response to a request from Vaughan for “real life” examples of why consent searches without the requirement of a signed form “are helpful to deter crime and keep citizens safer.”
In three of those cases police officers stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation and in each case a consent search resulted in a handgun being discovered in the vehicle. One consent search was the result of someone arriving in their vehicle at a location where a search warrant was being executed. The driver consented to a search of their vehicle and a handgun was discovered.
Rossabi notes that Police Chief Brian James has proposed and the GPOA supports documenting consent searches with body worn camera videos.