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Officer fired in evidence mishandling

Cleveland Daily Banner,

Cleveland, OH

A city police officer was dismissed from his job Friday afternoon for what Cleveland Police Chief Wes Snyder described as a matter concerning the chain of custody of evidence.

The police chief said Officer Roger Smith was fired for mishandling evidence removed from the July 10 crash on APD-40 that claimed the life of 24-year-old Dustin Ledford.

Snyder said the crash was handled by sheriff’s deputies with assistance from the city police department. During the course of events, Snyder said EMT Pete Van Dusen, while attending to Ledford, found a plastic bag containing what appeared to be marijuana in one of Ledford’s pockets. Van Dusen apparently gave the bag and its contents to Smith.

Snyder said Smith did not deliver the bag and its contents, along with a report and custody receipt, to the evidence and property custodian at the police service center. Policy requires officers to deliver evidence or property to the custodian as soon as possible and no later than the end of the officer’s tour of duty.

“That did not happen,” Snyder said.

He said the time frame extended into Smith’s next tour and only after an inquiry was made by his shift supervisor, Lt. Sheila Freeman, who found out about the evidence after speaking with the county officer who worked the fatal accident. Freeman approached Smith who, according to Snyder, found it in his patrol car after originally telling Freeman he had either lost the evidence or thrown it away.

Snyder said properly handling evidence is of the utmost importance in any case, including this one that could result in charges of vehicular homicide.

Smith was suspended with pay earlier in the week while Snyder considered disciplinary action. Smith has until close of business Tuesday to appeal the chief’s decision to City Manager Janice Casteel.

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