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Do Wrightsville Beach police officers and police staff use personal cellphones?

Ashley Morris

Q. Has the Wrightsville Beach Police Department ever issued their staff/officers cellphones, or have they always used their private phones for official use? How might personal phone use in business related to public service affect public information access?

A. According to Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Daniel House, most officers use their own personal phones and carry them with them on duty.

House said seven officers, including himself and some detectives, use phones issued through the police department.

House said he always cautions his officers, telling them anything they say on their phones could be made public record, but more likely could be made discoverable in a court of law.

An officer’s phone records and information can be requested by courts if the phone records are involved with an investigation or prosecution. House said there is a narrow band of time that can be requested.

“It’s not like the court could get access to the officer’s phone records for the entire day, but if say an officer responded to a robbery, they could access their phone records during the robbery and maybe 30 minutes before and after the incident,” House said.

As for what could be accessed as public record, the seven Wrightsville Beach Police officials that have police-issued phones are public record. Those officers that use their personal phones while on duty, it is mostly for personal use, House said.

According to the UNC School of Government website, text messages sent from public officials about public business is public record. But say, if an official was making plans with a friend to have dinner, they would not be required to retain these messages for public record.


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