You may see a report on the news tonight in reference to some mishandling of evidence that was discovered within our department. I would like to ensure that the most accurate information is provided to the public, and I believe it’s important, when possible, you hear it first from us.
On December 11, personnel within the Bella Vista Police Department noticed a discrepancy having to do with the handling of evidence. This was of concern to me so I immediately began working to determine if there was a problem or this was a one-time mistake of some type. Our internal audit determined multiple discrepancies and that a problem existed.
At this time, I determined that I needed an outside look at what we were uncovering so I contacted the Benton County Prosecutor’s office. My staff and I met with the Benton County Prosecutor on December 18 and after a brief consultation it was agreed upon that the best course of action would be to have outside investigators look at the issues found to make a fully transparent determination of the discrepancies.
The Benton County Sheriff’s Office was very helpful and immediately assigned two veteran investigators who arrived at the Bella Vista Police Department on December 19. By the next day, the discrepancies that we originally found were confirmed by the BCSO investigators, and two employees were identified as being involved in the mishandling of evidence.
Based on the totality of the information I had received, I was able to take administrative action against both employees, and on December 20 I terminated their employment. Their termination was based on policy violations having to do with Code of Conduct and Property and Evidence Handling.
While as a Chief of Police you are never happy when these types of incidents happen, I am extremely proud of this department, its personnel and the work we do. We identified a problem, immediately took action and brought in outside resources to ensure that our actions and findings were without question and fully transparent.
It is my desire and intention to continue to give the citizens of Bella Vista the excellent and professional police service you deserve.
I thank you for your continued support.
Chief James Graves