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Former police clerk pleads not guilty to gun theft;
BYLINE: JOHNNY WALKER, North Kitsap Herald Correspondent
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Poulsbo, WA

pre-trial hearing Nov. 16

POULSBO — Former Poulsbo Police Department evidence clerk Amanda M. Dixon pleaded not guilty in Superior Court Wednesday to charges she stole a handgun from police evidence in July 2010.

Judge Russell W. Hartman set a pre-trial hearing for Nov. 16, with trial to begin Dec. 13. Dixon remains free on her own recognizance. Her attorney, William Houser, declined to comment on the case.

Dixon was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on July 29, after Poulsbo Police asked the Sheriff’s Office to investigate why a gun documented as destroyed evidence by Dixon and Public Works employee Josh Howerton a year earlier resurfaced at Dixon’s parents’ home on July 6. Dixon’s father turned the gun in after he found it while his daughter was moving.

Sheriff’s investigators did not charge Howerton in the alleged theft.

Court proceedings were moved from District Court to Superior Court Tuesday after attorneys were unable to resolve the case outside of court.

The theft and unaccounted loss of a gun from police evidence for a year has sparked increased scrutiny of Poulsbo Police evidence management and procedures.

Last week, the State Auditor’s Office conducted its third audit of Poulsbo evidence controls in as many months; however, the findings of that audit are not yet available. According to a spokeswoman for the auditor’s office, an exit conference and final report date is not scheduled.

“We are done with our audit work in the evidence room,” Mindy Chambers said. “We looked at police reports for one month in 2010 and traced all of the high-risk evidence, such as drugs and cash, to the evidence room. We feel we have done sufficient work to determine that the system the department now has in place is working to prevent losses from the evidence room.”

Initial feedback from the auditor’s office did not address Poulsbo city or police accountability for the loss of the gun, any previous losses, or failure to report the loss as required by law.

“The city has been informed of this (reporting requirements),” Chambers said. “I am unable to comment on what will be discussed in the exit conference or in the report, since that document has not yet been prepared.”

Responding to a public records request, Poulsbo Police acknowledged that an additional loss of evidence occurred in 2008. According to police documents, an internal investigation was conducted regarding the loss of a necklace valued at more than $1,000, but no accountability was assigned.

According to an unsigned memorandum by Poulsbo Police employee MaryCarol Howerton, the missing necklace was booked in to police evidence in Febuary 2008. The necklace was discovered missing after the owner requested its return in October 2009. The memo also clarified that there were audits during this time that did not identify the loss.

“We have been audited two separate times after the time that this was to have been in the property room, once in May of 2008 and the other in June of 2009,” Howerton said.

In a memo dated Nov 13, 2009, Shawn Delaney, who was deputy chief at the time, concluded there was no clear accountability in the loss.

“There is no clear cut indication of what went wrong. It is apparent a mistake was made; however, the length of time since this took place makes it that much more difficult to ascertain what occurred. There is no reason to believe anything intentional (criminal) occurred.”

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