VIDEO’S POSTING MAY THREATEN CASE | Departments at odds?
The already-chilly relationship between the Lee County Sheriff’s Department and the Sanford Police Department may have taken a hit today. The lead story in today’s Herald tells of the largest drug bust in the county’s history – 2,400 pounds of marijuana with a street value of $5 million – made back in January. The Sheriff’s Department and federal drug enforcement officials made three arrests on January 25 after finding the pot stashed inside a trailer in a storage facility of White Hill Road, according to Gordon Anderson’s story in today’s edition.
We’ll have a follow-up story in Thursday’s edition.
The bust may be in jeopardy because, according to Gordon’s Wednesday story, it seems two members of the Sanford Police Department showed up at the scene, with one of them alleged to have filmed part of the operation. The video was subsequently posted on YouTube. An attorney for one of the men arrested wants the case dismissed because the video, which is considered evidence in the case, wasn’t disclosed.
Here’s the he said/she said part of the story: Sheriff Tracy Carter says the Sanford PD wasn’t invited to the party. Sanford Police Chief Ronnie Yarborough says his department was. There’s more to the story, obviously; for Anderson’s take on it, see his blog entry here.
The video was taken off the YouTube video-sharing website by the time we learned about it, and first saw it (a pirated copy, as I understand), back in March. Those involved in the case have been hesitant to discuss it because of the sensitive personnel nature of it. The officer who allegedly made the video has, we’re told, been separated from the police department, and officials don’t want the work involved in making the bust go for naught.
WRAL-TV obtained a copy of the video and ran with the story last night, which helped motivate local officials to discuss the case.
An interesting, and well-known, part of the backstory is that Yarborough supported Carter’s opponent in the sheriff’s race in 2006, former Chief Deputy Kevin Bryant, and eventually hired Bryant as a detective for his department. Bryant supporters, some of whom have “Dump Carter 2010″ bumper stickers on their cars, say he’ll run for the office again in two years. (Incidentally, Bryant’s wife, Carmen, told me last week in a telephone call she plans to run for the mayor’s seat.)
The history of animosity between Carter and Yarborough, and their respective supporters, goes back years – at least since Carter first sought the office in 2002. It’s been heightened since with the sheriff’s department’s drug enforcement work – the department has significantly increased the number (and dollar value) of drug seizures and arrests since Carter took office. Carter publicly downplays any rift, as does Yarborough, and of course the important thing is for both departments to continue to work to curb crime. They work together in many operations, particularly drug cases, so hopefully they’ll find a way to get past any negativities based on misunderstandings about this case.
Maybe it’ll be a stepping stone to better communication between the law enforcement agencies…
Time will tell. More visibe cooperative ventures between the two departments would do everyone a lot of good.