Drugs, money missing from LMISD evidence room

The Daily News, galvestondailynews.com
BYLINE: Christopher Smith Gonzalez, The Daily News
Link to Article

La Marque, TX

LA MARQUE — Drugs, money and possibly firearms all went missing from the School District Police Department’s evidence room at some point during the administration of the previous police chief, Timothy Fields, the current police chief for the school district, said.

Fields said he learned of the missing items when he conducted an audit soon after he was appointed chief in July 2010. Fields would not go into specifics about the weapons reported missing.

Fields said he notified the Texas Rangers, which often investigates other law-enforcement agencies, about the missing evidence when he first did the audit. Since then, he also has found an offense report written by a former school district officer on June 29, 2009 that states evidence had gone missing, Fields said.

He also has found an April 2009 email between former police Chief Russell Washington and the school district’s human resources director discussing missing evidence, Fields said.

Washington could not be reached for comment.

Fields was appointed police chief after Washington was fired in 2010. At the time, Washington was under indictment in an alleged attempt to falsify documents to obtain a title to a vehicle.

The charges were dropped, and Washington has demanded his old job back, along with compensation.

An investigation into the missing evidence was under way, and no suspects had been identified, Fields said.

“This is not something that was done on a whim,” Fields said of the investigation. “The only thing I’m doing is trying to protect the integrity of the department.”

Someone needs to be held accountable for the missing evidence, Fields said.

He said one of the reasons he was adamant about following through with the investigation was he didn’t want to be left responsible for something that did not happen under his watch.

“I don’t want it to blow up in my face,” Fields said.

The missing evidence was kept in a locked file cabinet in a room at the high school, Fields said. Only the school district’s police officers had access to it, he said. Fields said he now is the only officer who has access to that room.

He said he has asked for assistance from the district attorney’s office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He said Texas Rangers have come by the department and that he was working with them to file the paperwork the Rangers need.

Ecomet Burley, superintendent for the La Marque school district, said he had been made aware of the missing items by Fields.

“It is an ongoing investigation by the chief of police into the missing items and the inconsistencies in the report that was filed,” Burley said.

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