WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - One key part of a recent internal investigation report on the conduct of Wilmington police officers during an undercover prostitution and drug sting last year is the revelation that a camera was reported as missing in the process. It is unclear what, if any, video evidence was on that camera. The investigation determined officers acted outside the acceptable limits of use of alcohol on a sting operation, but did not break any laws.
Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous addressed allegations that the camera used in the sting was either lost or stolen by one of his officers.
"At this point I believe that it was potentially lost," Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said Wednesday. "Could it have been stolen? I guess it could have been. Anything is possible."
The chief went on to say that the cameras used in these operations are so small that they routinely get misplaced, but they always show back up. The video camera used in this particular operation has not shown up.
WECT requested and received a copy of every item that was reported lost in the last several months. Records show only one instance of a camera ever being reported as missing.
On December 13th last year, an officer reported the camera used in the botched sting was missing. However, that report wasn't filed until nine months after the sting and after the city launched an internal investigation into the string. The property loss report simply states the $500 Audio/Video recording device was lost and no police investigation was started to locate the camera. No other explanation was given concerning the disappearance of the camera.
In reviewing a year's worth of missing reports, WECT found equipment rarely goes missing or is ever reported as missing. Through the twelve months of data we were able to obtain, records show only seven property loss reports filed by the WPD. Most of the reports are for minor items, including flashlights and ID cards. One loss report shows a microphone went missing some time between November of 2011 and March of 2012. The report says the microphone was removed and not returned from a vehicle while an officer was on duty during those months. The report does not specify if an investigation was started into that disappearance.
Chief Evangelous says the internal investigation made the department aware of a serious lack of attention to detail, and that they would be looking into the problem.
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