(NaturalNews) A very dubious new police tactic has been revealed, in which an officer used phony information in order to gain "consent" to search private properties without first obtaining a warrant, as required by the Fourth Amendment.
Officers in Durham, North Carolina, have found out they can create a legal pretext for a search after lying about calls to 911 emergency services that never really took place. Apparently, the tactic is legal, if you can believe that, and fairly common, according to one officer's sworn statements.
As noted by WTVD:
A Durham police officer admitted under oath that he lied in order to gain entry to a home and to serve an outstanding warrant.
During a court hearing last May, court officials say he told a District Court judge that it was a common practice within Durham's police department.
He said he knocked on a resident's door, claiming police had received a 9-1-1 hang up call. But, it never happened.
Not department policy
According to the local news report, the tactic was being used often enough that the Durham police chief was forced to issue a department-wide memo immediately calling for it to cease:
It has recently been brought to my attention that some officers have informed citizens that there has been a 911 hang-up call from their residence in order to obtain consent to enter for the actual purpose of looking for wanted persons on outstanding warrants. Effective immediately no officer will inform a citizen that there has been any call to the emergency communications center, including a hang-up call, when there in fact has been no such call.
- Jose L. Lopez, Sr., Chief of Police
In a subsequent interview with the local ABC affiliate, Lopez denied that the practice was commonplace.
"This has never occurred," said Lopez. "We want to find out what... led him [the officer] to believe that this is something he should do."
We will investigate
The police chief added that his department was immediately launching an investigation and, if the officer's claims prove to be true, such actions would be a clear violation of department policy and, of course, the Constitution.
Lopez did not rule out a form of discipline for officers who were found to be in violation of the department's policy. And he emphasized that his staff is only aware of the single reported incident.
But Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield is pledging tougher action and a more vigorous look into the allegation.
"If confirmed that this tactic was used, the city manager agrees that it is entirely unacceptable," Bonfield said through a city spokesperson. "This tactic is not a policy, nor an acceptable practice of the department for any reason."