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IMPD deputy chief cleared in Bisard evidence mix-up, back on the job

BYLINE: Russ McQuaid
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Indianapolis, IN

Top-ranking policewoman cleared in Bisard evidence mix-up

Val Cunningham (May 1, 2012)

Indianapolis - Deputy Chief Val Cunningham has returned to work at the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department after being cleared of wrongdoing in the mishandling of a vial of blood in the David Bisard case.

Cunningham, as the head of professional standards, was placed on administrative leave April 17, and Police Chief Paul Ciesielski resigned, after it was discovered that the IMPD property room, some six months earlier, stored Officer Bisard’s blood in an unrefrigerated property room annex at the IMPD Academy. A police lieutenant supervisor and a civilian supervisor were also placed on leave.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry has said the mishandling of the blood vial may render the evidence as unusable in the trial of Bisard, who is accused of driving his patrol car under the influence of alcohol when he ran down three motorcyclists and killed one in August of 2010.

When the mix-up was revealed, Mayor Greg Ballard announced the FBI would investigate the handling of the blood vial.

Cunningham was cleared to return to duty April 23. She had taken vacation time since that date.

She returns as the Deputy Chief of Administration. Major Harold Turner takes over responsibilities for the division of professional standards.

Oversight of the IMPD property room was removed from Cunningham’s Professional Standards division in January, two months after the blood vial was transferred.

Operations of the property room are now being reviewed.

Cunningham had previously come under fire for her operations of the division and the Special Investigations Unit which reported to the office of Public Safety Director Frank Straub.

A consultant’s study found that less than a year after it was formed, the unit had botched an internal investigation and had poor evidence and interview control practices.

It was that unit, sources tell Fox 59 News, that was tasked with investigating Straub’s claims of widespread pervasive police corruption that spanned back “50 years.”

Last week, Straub promised the city’s administration he was on the verge of announcing a large corruption case.

Sources indicate that Straub was accumulating a list of misbehaving officers over many years.

In power struggle over the release of that list and Straub’s insistence of hands-on control of the police department, the director offered his resignation and the mayor accepted it last Friday.

On Fox 59 Morning News, Mayor Ballard was asked about the reasons for Straub’s resignation.

“You’ll have to ask him that, frankly, how he felt about it internally is certainly all about him,” Ballard told Fox 59’s Ray Cortopassi. “He did move the department and public safety forward.

“Don’t make too much of the way things are playing out.”

Mayor Ballard said Straub may stay on until August 1 and play a role in the search for his successor.

“Frank is obviously going to be a piece of that puzzle,” said Ballard. “We’ll talk to other people as we go forward.”

City-County councilors have expressed an interest in a bi-partisan search committee that would seek input from others in the community and outside of the law enforcement family.

Councilors have also considered whether this is the time to re-examine the office of the Public Safety Director which has grown staff, responsibility and budget-wise since Straub’s arrival in January of 2010.

“I don’t know if it’s large,” said the mayor. “He just organized it appropriately into homeland security, EMS, and police and fire agencies and animal care and control. It’s kind of like how it should have been.

“We kind of redefined it the position into a position of strength in the city and I want that to continue.”

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