SBI agrees to open investigation into possible criminal activit - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

SBI agrees to open investigation into possible criminal activity by WPD

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – The SBI has agreed to open an investigation into possible criminal activity by the Wilmington Police Department on behest of the District Attorney's Office, according to SBI spokesperson Noelle Talley.

Both New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David and Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous called for the investigation.

David held an emergency meeting with his staff Thursday in response to a botched undercover sting in 2012 that led to the reorganization of the Narcotics Unit of the Wilmington Police Department.

The investigation started in December 2012 and was open until the end of February 2013. 

A news release said the investigation stated the officers acted outside of acceptable standards  for the use of alcohol on an undercover prostitution and drug sting, but did not break any laws.

David said the integrity of the police department is vital for our community to function. He also said occasionally you will have some officers who "will tarnish the badge."

He added that the SBI's probe could potentially lead to criminal charges, as well as department changes and training changes. However, David and Evangelous could not pinpoint how many, if any, officers could be criminally charged.

According to Evangelous, the three officers in question are still on duty and will be throughout this investigation.

Evangelous said this has been one of the toughest weeks of his career, but he hopes the facts will speak for themselves.

The SBI will conduct its review and report back to David.

Evangelous held a press conference Wednesday afternoon in response to questions surrounding the internal investigation.  The police chief said a video camera with crucial information about the undercover sting had gone missing but wasn't reported until nine months after the operation.

Evangelous blamed it on a "code of silence" among officers attempting to maintain the department's image.

Wilmington Police Lt. Kathy Cochran said she was the lieutenant in charge of the Vice and Narcotics unit at the time and admits she brought concerns to Internal Affairs after hearing details of the operation that didn't sync with what she had been told in the past by officers.

Cochran said she was notified Tuesday that she was being transferred out of Vice and Narcotics. 

Evangelous emphasized problems with supervision during this undercover sting numerous times during the press conference. He made a point to mention that the actions of these few officers was not a true reflection of the entire department.

The police chief announced Wednesday the department will transfer the Narcotics Enforcement Unit out of the Special Operations Division and into the Criminal Investigations Division under supervision of Captain J.T. Allsbrook. 

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