Durham ABC Police Department allegations explode

Did you know that Durham has a separate police department for the Durham ABC stores? This police force, two full-time officers, several part-time officers, and a chief, report directly to the Durham ABC Board.

Durham ABC Highway-55-Store-10

Serious allegations of corruption have been leveled at the Durham ABC Police and Chief Natausha Pettiford.

In a Clarion Content investigation numerous sources inside and outside the department classified the Chief’s behavior and the environment it cultivated as “unprofessional and unethical”.

The Clarion Content initiated our investigation when whistleblower and former Durham ABC Police Officer, Edwin C. Swain, approached us with a broad swath of complaints.

Swain was a part-time officer with the Durham ABC PD who resigned on September 13th, 2017.  Swain was then and is still a Staff Sergeant with the Pittsboro Police Department.

Officer Swain leveled a series of accusations against Chief Pettiford and the Durham ABC.

Natausha Pettiford Durham ABC Police Chief

Natausha Pettiford Durham ABC Police Chief

The whistleblower, Officer Swain, alleges that the Chief specifically told her officers to treat certain arrests of local university students differently.

Officer Swain alleges that Chief Pettiford once ordered Durham ABC Police officers to arrest a student for looking at her funny and talking back to her. The North Carolina Central University student in question confirmed the story to the Clarion Content. She was later released.   

Officer Swain alleges and our sources corroborate that Durham ABC officers were instructed by Chief Pettiford that Duke University students arrested at parties for underage drinking or other related offenses were to be ticketed on the spot. The same was true for male students from North Carolina Central University. But Chief Pettiford, according to Officer Swain and several other sources, ordered the department’s officers to transport females from North Carolina Central University back to the NCCU police department where they were released rather than ticketed or arrested.

The whistleblower Officer Swain alleges that he complained to Chief Pettiford about this inconsistent and, in his view, illegal policy. Swain alleges that the Chief told him that he, “needed to know his place.”

Officer Swain reports he immediately resigned, putting his gun and badge on Chief Pettiford’s desk that very day.

Various other police officers described Officer Edwin C. Swain as a consummate police professional [who had planned on keeping his part-job with Durham ABC Police for some time].

Officer Swain has continued to work for the Pittsboro Police Department during this time. Captain Troy Roberson of the Pittsboro Police Department confirmed Sergeant Swain’s employment with the Pittsboro PD and said the department does not comment on investigations that do not involve them.

After he resigned from the Durham ABC PD, Officer Swain alleges he reported the Chief’s inconsistent and unethical behavior to Chief Pettiford’s boss, Durham ABC General Manager Rufus Sales.

Rufus Sales, Durham ABC General Manager

Rufus Sales, Durham ABC General Manager

Swain alleges Sales vowed to investigate. According to Officer Swain, Chief Pettiford had repeatedly insinuated in front of the police department’s officers that she had a piece of information on Sales that would stop him from disciplining her.

When contacted for comment on these allegations General Manager Rufus Sales said in an email, “I appreciate you sharing these allegations with me, I will make Durham County ABC Board aware of your email and allow them to respond.”

[No one from the Durham ABC Board has responded to the Clarion Content’s request for comment.]

Officer Swain and multiple sources allege that Chief Pettiford previously resigned from the Durham Police Department. These police sources, who did not want to be named, allege that Pettiford was allowed to resign rather than be fired after a scandal revolving around her over-claiming her hours. The Durham Police Department only officially confirms dates of employment.

The whistleblower, Officer Swain, told the Clarion Content that he felt General Manager Rufus Sales investigation of Chief Pettiford would lead nowhere. With that in mind Officer Swain alleges that on September 29th of 2017 he took his complaints to Durham ABC Board Chairman Norwood Andy Miller.

Durham ABC Board Chairman Norwood Andy Miller

Durham ABC Board Chairman Norwood Andy Miller

Officer Swain alleges that Miller asked Swain to trust Durham ABC General Manager Sales, who is Chief Pettiford’s boss, and respect the process. Officer Swain alleges nothing came of the investigation.

Durham ABC Board Chairman Miller did not respond to requests for comment. Miller has been a police officer at North Carolina Central University, but his name is no longer listed on North Carolina Central University Police Department website. NCCU spokesperson Barbara Lyons refused to comment on his status.

Chief Pettiford when reached for comment would only say that she had been investigated and cleared by her superiors.


Aaron Mandel

Aaron Mandel is a writer and an accomplished public speaker. He is the publisher of the Clarion Content. For more than a decade, the Clarion Content has covered Durham’s arts, politics, music, and cultural milieu. From breaking news stories to the hottest local acts, the Clarion Content is on the scene. The Clarion Content published more than twenty distinguished guest columnists and garnered nearly a million views. Mandel is a volunteer for the Durham Mighty Pen Literacy Project and serves as the President of the Board of Sustain-A-Bull Durham, a local small business collective with more than 200 members. He writes regularly on the Clarion Content and has been quietly writing fiction since the 4th grade. Mandel has been published in the Raleigh News and Observer. He has also produced numerous art shows, including, “Durham under Development”. He was a featured speaker at “The State of Publishing” conference. He has presented to Durham Chamber of Commerce, “Chamber U” on the “New Media”. He has also served as the play-by-play announcer for the D.B.L., a Durham youth basketball league. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Religious Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington. An avid policy debater at Indiana and a Nation Debate Tournament qualifier, Mandel was also a member of the New Jersey State Champion two-person Policy Debate Team. He has lived in North Carolina, New Jersey, California, Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Indiana, and Baja California, Mexico.

1 Comment

  • Reply July 9, 2018

    Wayne Andrews

    I would encourage Mr. Mandel to inquire further as to why Durham ABC police were instructed by Rufus Sales and Misty Walters to use the security surveillance equipment-(not for safety and security)-but to spy on employees conversations; then take disciplinary action against the employee/s with whom they did not like the content of the conversation. This is a violation of, both Federal and State eavesdropping laws.

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