The Quantico Police Department is under state investigation after an audit revealed that a gun, cash and drugs were missing.
Virginia State Police launched the investigation at the request of the Quantico Town Council. State police spokeswoman Corrine Geller said the investigation is ongoing.
The council also is requiring its two full-time town police officers and four auxiliary officers to take polygraph tests by Feb. 8. The officers remain on duty pending the outcome.
“It is my opinion that there is a systemic problem within the agency. For many years the employees of the agency have conducted business in a manner that cannot be considered ‘best practices,’” wrote consultant Scott Roy, a Culpeper County sheriff’s captain hired by the Town Council to audit the department. “Identifying when the problem started -- or naming an individual that is responsible -- is impossible at this point.
“Clearly an attitude of complacency and a lack of adherence to professional standards have contributed to the problem. The attitude displayed by some, that Quantico does not have the issues faced by larger jurisdictions, is a problem that will get worse if things do not change. This is unacceptable, especially for the residents of Quantico,” Scott wrote.
Quantico Mayor Kevin Brown, who took office in the summer, recommended the audit after hearing concerns about mismanagement from current and former town police officers. He commends them for bringing the matter to light.
Brown said he was not surprised by the audit results, but, he added, it was “worse than I had expected. The most disappointing result of the audit was not in the report, which is that people will assume that all of our officers are not professional, and that is not the case. In fact, the majority of our officers are and have been good officers. It is a matter of a few bad apples and a catastrophic leadership failure.”
The town’s current chief is Howard Castle, who took office in October 2011. Before Castle, John Weinstein was the chief from 2009 to 2011. He left to take a job with the Northern Virginia Community College police force. Gerald Tolson was chief from 2002 to 2009. Tolson died last year. Castle and Weinstein could not be reached by press time.
The town council and town attorney were briefed on the audit results during the council’s December meeting. Council then decided to call for the polygraph tests.
Brown said he was advised polygraph tests were an option “to help determine which officer was telling the truth since an official [state police] investigation may take a number of months.”
The Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Fairfax Field Office is conducting the probe, Geller said.
The auditor reviewed several areas of concern, including the handling of department- owned property such as weapons, as well as the handling of criminal evidence, policy, records and training. Several corrective actions were recommended for each area.
The auditor found the police department does not have an inventory or tracking system for its equipment.
“Therefore it is impossible to account for all of the equipment purchased and issued over the years,” the auditor wrote.
The department has a 12-guage shotgun and a .45-caliber pistol of dubious origins.
“It is unclear if these guns were purchased legally or simply acquired in some other way over the years,” the auditor wrote.
The missing firearm is a Sig Saur handgun that had been issued to Castle before the department switched to Glock handguns. Additional issues with the department’s firearms are still being investigated, Brown said.
Also missing is an evidence tracking system.
“There is no way of determining what should and should not be contained in the [police department’s] evidence locker,” the auditor wrote.
There also is no control over the evidence that is stored either in a locked safe or file cabinets, because some but not all of the file cabinets being locked.
Brown said marijuana and $1,080 in cash seized as evidence in criminal cases is unaccounted for.
“When asked where all of the evidence from past cases was, I was told that an answer to the question was unknown,” the auditor wrote.
“It also appears as if no evidence or property had been seized or taken in since 2010. This seemed very unusual and when asked why Chief Castle explained that ‘not much goes on around here. Kinda like a Mayberry town,’” Scott wrote.
The audit found that record keeping was poor and training lacking.
While the police department has a policy and procedures manual, the auditor wrote, “It is very clear the employees present and past had little or no knowledge of the manual’s existence or where it was located.”
While acknowledging the need for a complete overhaul of the police department, Brown said no personnel decisions will be made until after the polygraphs.
“Once that is complete it is my intention to work with the town council to establish an advisory committee to assist the town in rebuilding the department into the professional organization the residents and officers deserve,” Brown said. “The goal is to have members from surrounding departments to provide mentoring and advice as we rebuild.”
Aileen Streng can be reached at email@example.com.