Monroe officials said on Wednesday they are suspending nine police officers without pay for a week over their handling of cases that led the district attorney to dismiss charges against 39 people.
The suspensions represent about 10 percent of the force, which the city believes to be the most ever for the department. An internal investigation is continuing, and supervisors also could face disciplinary action.
“They are all equally guilty of not doing their jobs,” city spokesman Pete Hovanec said of the suspended officers. “We want to do what’s right, to hold these officers accountable and ensure that this does not happen again.”
Because of the number of suspensions, the timing of the discipline will be staggered. None of the officers are being demoted.
Hovanec said the suspended employees are: detective Rick Garcia; detective Nick Brummer; detective Glen Jenkins; detective Daniel Stroud; officer Josie Lodder; officer Don Elkins; detective Renee Hower; officer Travis Furr; and officer Darren Nash. Nash is the son of city Councilwoman Dottie Nash.
The officers earn between $37,800 and $48,900 a year, and joined the force between 2000 and 2008.
They failed to provide files that the district attorney’s office needed to prosecute cases, the city has said. Sometimes, they also did not submit drugs to a lab for analysis, which also hampered prosecution.
“There is no single person responsible for the dismissal of these cases,” City Manager John D’Agostino said in a statement. “We are dedicated to fixing the problem and will do everything in our power to regain public trust and ensure public safety.”
The department has made changes in the command structure to better supervise offers and their case loads as well as changed the way in which data are entered and updated by computer.
Monroe also will appoint a liaison to work with the district attorney’s office for better communication of what is needed to prosecute cases, Hovanec said. “We want to move forward and restore the good name of the Monroe Police Department,” he said.
Most of the cases covered a two-year period and involved drugs, including heroin and marijuana, as well as fraud and identity theft charges.
What appears to be the most violent case involved a charge of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. The suspect, a 25-year-old Wingate man was arrested in February 2012 after he allegedly fired a 9 millimeter handgun several times at a moving car which had a 2-year-old girl in it, court records show. Neither the girl, nor the driver, who was her father, was hurt.
The officer that handled the case, records show, was Darren Nash.
All of the dismissals stemmed from a routine audit of cases, Union County District Attorney Trey Robison has said.
No one had to be released from jail because of the dismissals. The 39 defendants may be prosecuted some day, depending on the cases and circumstances.
All of the cases occurred under the command of former chief Debra Duncan. She served from mid-2006 until she retired on Sept. 1. On Tuesday, Duncan won election to the Monroe City Council.
When the cases were disclosed last month, Duncan said that she took full responsibility for anything that happened while she was chief.
In an interview Wednesday, Duncan said the department had layers of supervisors, including herself, who should have caught the problems.
“Certainly the ball was dropped,” she said. “But this is not a reflection of the whole department. We’ve got 90 percent of the department doing an excellent job keeping the city safe.”
Duncan said she looks forward to working on city council to provide the police department with the resources it needs to do its job.
Staff researcher Maria David contributed.
Bell: 704-358-5696; Twitter: @abell
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