Goolsby sounds off on WPD surveillance investigation

Published: Jun. 20, 2014 at 11:31 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 24, 2014 at 4:28 AM EDT
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Senator Thom Goolsby is deeply concerned about the use of police surveillance devices in the...
Senator Thom Goolsby is deeply concerned about the use of police surveillance devices in the state of North Carolina. (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Emails obtained by WECT Thursday revealed that the New Hanover County Public Defender's Office is investigating the WPD's use of Stingray surveillance equipment. The Stingray equipment can track cell phone location and decipher what other phones have been contacted by the device.

WECT reached out to state senator and Wilmington defense attorney Thom Goolsby for comment on the matter. Goolsby said he had heard about the questionable technology earlier in the week from officials with the ACLU. He is deeply concerned about the use of such devices in the state of North Carolina.

"This is not a national security interest. We're not fighting Al Quaeda here," said an exasperated Goolsby. "This is Wilmington, North Carolina. This is the fourth amendment in the United States against our own citizens."

With his political and legal backgrounds in mind, Goolsby questioned the use.

"What of my clients is this being used on, and did they get warrants to use this?" questioned a frustrated Goolsby.

He said he also should have known about the use of such devices because of his role as a lawmaker.

"Anything dealing with this should be coming through us to approve it before people are using this to monitor citizens of our state. I mean I'm outraged if all this is true," Goolsby said.

The WPD referred WECT to the FBI for comment on local use of the Stingray equipment. The defense attorney was not satisfied with that response.

"What does the FBI have to do with it? We're talking about state law enforcement. These aren't federal cases. I mean is a federal government giving us technologies to use now?" Goolsby questioned.

He said he will now begin looking for answers related to this topic. Goolsby plans to contact the New Hanover County Public Defender, the SBI, state senate staffers, the Department of Public Safety and eventually the WPD as he inquires about the topic. He said he also wants this matter discussed by state lawmakers before the short session of the state general assembly ends.

The WPD has not released a statement related to its involvement with the surveillance technology.

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