August 12, 2023
Lewis County authorities say they've asked the U.S. Attorney's office in St. Louis to investigate the Canton Police Department, after numerous instances of illegal behavior over the past 8 years, including cash, drugs and even a weapon taken from the Department's evidence room.
In a joint statement released Thursday, both Lewis County Sheriff Larry Parrish and Prosecuting Attorney Chelsea Fellinger say they asked for the investigation, based on several incidents, starting with the mass resignation of nearly all of Canton's police officers last May. The resignations included Chief Ryan Crandall. Shortly after that, Canton Mayor Jarrod Phillips asked the Sheriff's Office to investigate the Canton PD, after the City discovered that evidence had been tampered with, and that drugs were missing including meth, marijuana, fentanyl, hydrocodone pills, methadone, and a variety of other pills. The statement says that Sheriff Parrish called in the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the FBI a month later, and that an investigation started last September. The investigation eventually found that in 2015, one thousand dollars in cash had been taken from the evidence room, that was supposed to be returned. The City of Canton eventually returned the money, using its' own funding and did not open an investigation. In 2018, the Sheriff's Office investigated former Canton Police Sergeant Ryan Clanton for pawning a Department owned patrol rifle. He eventually pleaded Guilty. In 2021, former Canton PD Chief Ryan Crandall reported that a Glock .40 caliber handgun, seized in 2008, had been stolen from the evidence room. No evidence audit was done and Chief Crandall admitted that he didn't know whom might have taken the firearm. The following January, Lewis County Coroner, Larry Arnold asked the department about medication they seized during a death investigation in Canton. Investigators found that while the pill bottles had been returned, the pills inside were missing.That's after the pills had first been reported missing, and an officer later told Arnold that the pills had been found. Again, the matter was not referred for investigation, and the only action by the city was for Mayor Phillips to forbid the Department from taking part in a national drug take back program. In all, the Sheriff's Office and the Missouri State Highway Patrol found that hundreds of items of evidence had been tampered with and/or stolen, including cash, hundreds of pills, both controlled and non-controlled substances, and a handgun.
Lewis County Prosecutor Chelsea Fellinger said in the statement that, because of the lack of controls with the evidence room, no charges can be filed. She said that too many people had access to the evidence room, evidence locker and evidence keys, and no definitive proof to hold anyone accountable could be determined. Fellinger sent notice to the City on May 19th that she would hold the entire Police Department and the City responsible for what happened. She also disclosed opther events that happened in the past few years with Department personnel that she was aware of. That included a former chief who was fired after pulling a rifle on a professor at Culver-Stockton College; a chief who was federally indicted for purchasing a firearm for a felon; an officer arrested for driving while intoxicated, but permitted to stay on the job, the same officer who was later prosecuted for having sex with a minor; stolen money; stolen guns; firearms being discharged in the station; and most recently, a chief of police with a concealed drug addiction that was deemed a personnel issue. She says that because of all the issues, she can no longer file criminal cases investigated by the Canton Police Department, unless helped by an outside agency and that the Canton Police Department was not to collect, or store any items of evidence until further notice. The statement says that a response wasn't received until late June, and that the acting Chief has ignored Fellinger's directive.
The statement says that the Canton City Council met July 31st to talk about the status of the department, but no clear plan for moving forward was determined. Right now, Sheriff Parrish says that the Canton PD continues to function with three new officers. Sheriff Parrish says his department is helping the Canton PD to assist with any calls where they're being dispatched.