News Roundup

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety announced this week that it will temporarily suspend operations at three prisons to alleviate high staff vacancy rates and enhance safety and security in the state prison system.  The announcement says that the statewide average correctional officer vacancy rate in August was 21% and that “[t]his level of staffing impacts operations . . . [and] negatively impact[s] the delivery of offender programs.”  Operations will be suspended at Hoke Correctional Institution, Tyrrell Prison Work Farm, and Odom Correctional Institution.  Employees at those prisons will be redeployed to nearby facilities.  The News Roundup previously has noted that understaffing has been a problem at certain North Carolina prisons in recent years and may have been a factor in a deadly escape attempt at Pasquotank Correctional Institution in 2017.  Keep reading for more news.

Rape Detective Fired.  The Fayetteville Observer reports that a detective who was the investigator on several rape cases has been fired after being accused of making inappropriate advances towards victims in the cases that he worked.  Paul G. Matrafailo III was dismissed by the Fayetteville Police Department in May.  According to the Observer, Matrafailo allegedly sent sexually suggestive messages over social media to at least two women whose rape cases he was investigating.

Survivor Act Signed.  Late last week Governor Roy Cooper signed legislation known as the “Survivor Act” into law.  As WFMY reports, the law requires mandatory submission of all future sexual assault evidence kits to a lab for testing and addresses the state’s backlog of existing untested evidence kits.

Home Rape Kits.  Speaking of rape kits, WLOS reports that several law enforcement agencies in the state along with Attorney General Josh Stein are advising people to not use rape kits that are available for purchase and marketed to victims as self-administrable.  In a press release earlier this month, Stein noted that sexual assault kit collection and testing is free in North Carolina, and that use of an at-home kit in the place of an examination by a trained sexual assault nurse examiner could result in important evidence not being collected.

Sheriff Suspended.  Last week the News Roundup noted that Granville County Sheriff Brindell Wilkins has been indicted on criminal charges related to allegations that in 2014 he advised someone to kill a former Granville deputy in order to prevent the release of a recording of Brindell using racially offensive language.  ABC 11 reports this week that Brindell has been suspended from his duties while the prosecution proceeds.

Synagogue Security.  The Winston-Salem Journal reports that Temple Emanuel, a Jewish synagogue in the city, is increasing security following a recent discovery of white supremacist propaganda.  The Winston-Salem Police Department and other law enforcement agencies are investigating offensive and disturbing pamphlets that were found at Temple Emanuel last week.

Hemp Confounds.  It turns out that telling the difference between hemp and marijuana is as difficult for K9 officers and novel field tests as it is for human officers and forensic analysts.  WLOS has a story this week that says that K9’s trained to sniff out marijuana are unable to distinguish between the two forms of cannabis, and goes on to say that the reliability of a chemical field test for THC levels developed in Switzerland has been called into question after extensive testing in Florida.

Blue Cross DWI.  BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina CEO Dr. Patrick Conway resigned this week after new information emerged regarding his arrest in June for impaired driving.  The News & Observer reports that after several miles of weaving across lanes of traffic and wrecking his SUV with his children inside as passengers, Conway belligerently told law enforcement officers that they “could have let [him] go,” that they didn’t know how important he was, and that he planned to “call Governor Cooper and get [the officers] in trouble.”

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