Duncan takes responsibility for MPD shortcomings
Former Police Chief Debra Duncan released a statement about the district attorney's dismissal of 39 cases last week.
The cases were dismissed due to incomplete paperwork by the Monroe Police Department and many of the cases were during Duncan's tenure as chief.
"I take responsibility (for) the inaction of the officers," Duncan said in an interview. "Apparently things weren't working as they should have been."
Last year, the Monroe Police Department was sanctioned for failing to turn in evidence during a trial. The evidence was revealed by in-car video that turns on when the police car lights go on. In one case, the video showed an officer taking note on his hand. Those notes were not included in the evidence presented to the defense attorney during discovery.
After the sanction, Duncan and others met with District Attorney Trey Robison to work out new procedures for officers to follow.
"As soon as we worked it out, the entire department was trained on new procedures," Duncan said. "We wanted to make sure we were on board and we were working together."
Duncan said that at their accreditation hearing May, Robison spoke and mentioned the new policies and procedures, saying that the police department and his staff were communicating and working well together, Duncan said.
"I don't know what happened, because I didn't hear of anything different," Duncan said.
Duncan said in a statement that an internal investigation is being conducted and the officers at fault will be held accountable.
The cases run from 2011 to 2013. Most of them are drug-related or related to money.
One case was for felony conspiracy and trafficking in stolen identities. The note in the court document said the officer did not present case files in a timely manner for a grand jury and the case could not be prosecuted. The arrest was in February of this year.
In another case, the charges were filed Feb. 2012. The defendant was charged with assault with a deadly weapon intent to kill, discharge weapon in occupied dwelling/moving vehicle, discharging a firearm within city limits and in another file another count of assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill.
The notes from the court document say the charging officer failed to present a case file to the district attorney's office so the case could be presented to a grand jury, thus the district attorney cannot prosecute the case.
Another case included charges of discharged weapon in an occupied dwelling, possession of a firearm by a felon, discharging a firearm within city limits and other charges. According to court documents, the case was charged in Nov. 2011. The officer presented the case file to the district attorney's office Sept. 2013 and it was too weak of a case to indict.
Interim Police Chief Bryan Gilliard has already implemented command structure changes to better monitor cases as well as made modifications to the computer case tracking system used by officers. Additional changes include the possibility of a dedicated liaison between the police department and district attorney’s office to better communicate investigation needs, according to a statement released by the city.
Gilliard said some of the cases can be re-tried and that will be at the discretion of Robison.
"The real tragedy here is that there will be no justice for the victims and that is not how the criminal justice system should work. In the past year the police department implemented new policies and procedures regarding case management to ensure that officer case files were turned over to the District Attorney's office in a timely manner," Duncan said in a statement. "All officers and staff received training on those policies and procedures."
Duncan retired in September and is currently running for city council. Duncan and Robison told The Charlotte Observer the dismissals were not politically motivated.
“We did not do what we were supposed to do. That is certainly our fault. We all should be held accountable and whatever else happens. It happens," Duncan said in an interview.
"I'd like to remind everybody that this involved a small percentage of officers who failed to perform in an aspect of their job, although a very important aspect," Duncan said. "I want to caution people not to overlook that fact that the vast majority of officers do an excellent job keeping residents safe on a daily basis. This problem will be corrected and all officers will continue to provide the quality law enforcement services that Monroe expects and deserves."
General elections for the Monroe race will be held Oct. 8.