Judge considers making report into Belmont police public

BELMONT, N.C. — Family members of a woman killed during a police chase went to court Tuesday to push for results of an investigation into the Belmont Police Department.

They believe the investigation conducted last year may reveal possible missteps by police during the chase in 2012.

An attorney for the City of Belmont said that investigation was conducted by an outside agency, but they were hired by the city so everything in the report should be considered a personnel matter and kept private. Grieving family members said that is not right.

For the first time, a judge will unseal the 150-page report and review it herself, before deciding whether to make it public.

The Belmont City Council read it last year and the city manager determined that former chief Charlie Franklin was negligent, incompetent, had falsified records and threatened employees.

There may be more in it, Donna Dietz’s sister, Ellen Dietz Tucker, said.

"There might wide spread problems in the department,” Tucker said. “There might be a culture of laxity it seemed to us."

Four years ago, her sister, Dietz, and her friend and former mayor Kevin Loftin were killed during a police chase.

Belmont officers pursued a car that ran through a police checkpoint.

That car smashed into Dietz and Loftin's car as they returned from an Ash Wednesday service.

"Police pursuit that seemed to us unnecessary,” Tucker said. “We did not get candid answers."

She believes there may be answers about police missteps during that investigation.      
Several former officers who complained about treatment in the department talked to private investigators, but their comments were sealed.
Civitas, a conservative think tank, provided attorneys to help Dietz make the report public.
Representative for the state Open Government Coalition also provided support.
"It's important for the citizens of Belmont to have faith that their police department is being run properly," organization representative Jonathan Jones said.
After the report was completed, Franklin was fired and his second in command resigned.
Both sides expect the judge to take a few days to go over the internal investigation, review both sides of the agreement in this case and then sometime next week decide whether or not that report from the internal investigation should be made public.

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