ECU police chief’s press conference ‘confusing’

Published 10:03 pm Thursday, September 11, 2008

By Staff
Suspected authorities being investigated
Staff Writer
Several law enforcement agencies hired to work security at Saturday’s East Carolina University-West Virginia University football game have confirmed that their agents were involved in isolated incidents of excessive force against fans.
Following ECU’s victory over WVU, fans stormed the field at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville. In the process of celebrating, some fans were tackled, thrown to the ground and/or punched by law enforcement authorities working security at the game.
With complaints circulating about the use of excessive force, ECU Police Chief Scott Shelton addressed the media at a press conference Monday afternoon.
During the press conference, Shelton said that any disciplinary matters regarding personnel working security are handled within the appropriate agency they are employed with.
The ECU police chief also said he determined that officers with the ECU Police Department, the City of Greenville Police Department, the Winterville Police Department and deputies with the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office were not involved in any of the publicized altercations.
When asked if any of its officers were being investigated, the Greenville Police Department confirmed that one of its officers was under investigation.
At Shelton’s press conference Monday afternoon, he said, “We are most comfortable with Greenville Police Department. We work hand-in-hand.”
Lenoir County Sheriff Billy Smith was put off by comments made by Shelton at the press conference about his sheriff’s office, according to media reports.
When asked about the comments made to the media by Smith, Shelton said, “He’s welcome and free to speak his mind.”
The ECU police contracted five off-duty deputies from the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office to provide security at the game.
The press release, which followed Shelton’s Monday afternoon press conference, concluded with, “we regret that these incidents have cast a light upon the sheriff’s office, but we urge people to reserve judgment until the facts are gathered and presented.”
Kinston Department of Public Safety is also conducting an investigation into the actions of its officers after the game.
In a press release issued Monday, the department said, “the investigation will be thorough and will include the actions of the officers and events leading up to the confrontation. The professional conduct of our officers reflects on the entire organization and is held to the highest standard.”
On Tuesday evening, Shelton went public with a decision to use only officers and deputies from within Pitt County for the remainder of ECU’s home football games. In the press release, ECU’s chief of police also said the department will reduce the number of outside agencies used for security purposes.
According to the press release, the department has concluded its preliminary investigation, positively identifying police officers and deputies “shown in video clips of incidents after the game.”
Shelton declined to name the officers identified, citing personnel laws and regulations.
Chancellor Steve Ballard said the university will carefully review its game-day protocols and training to make sure everything possible is done to protect the safety of fans and players at the game, said the press release.
The chancellor said ECU police will work with both the athletics department and the Student Government Association to educate students about the dangers of rushing onto the field after a game.
Regarding excessive force used by security at ECU football home games, Ashley Woolard, president of the Beaufort County Pirate Club, said, “The problem has been there for years.”
Woolard, an ECU alum, hopes the highly publicized incident “brings to the forefront the situation with police over there.”