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North Slope Borough investigating drugs, cash missing from Barrow police HQ

Jillian RogersThe Arctic Sounder

An investigation into the allegation of missing evidence at the North Slope Borough Police Department is underway in Barrow.

An email response from North Slope Borough Chief Administrative Officer Jake Adams earlier this month confirmed that an outside source is looking into the claim that money and drugs disappeared from the evidence room at the department in February 2013.

"The North Slope Borough takes all allegations that question the proper and ethical practices of the Borough Police Department seriously," Adams wrote in an email. "The North Slope Borough has hired an independent consultant to aggressively conduct an investigation into this matter to ensure the Borough is acting in accordance with the law, our policies, and our commitment and obligation to protect and support our citizens."

FBI agents from Fairbanks were also in Barrow last week.

"A special agent of the FBI traveled to Barrow this week, where she met with several members of the North Slope Borough Police Department," said assistant special agent with the FBI Kevin Donovan.

Donovan added that no other specific details of what exactly the agent was looking into were being released at this time.

The two investigations are separate, the borough confirmed on Friday.

Officials in the police department were notified of missing evidence more than a year ago, while borough officials and other state and federal agencies were made aware earlier this year by a concerned officer in Barrow.

In February 2013, a memo was released to two supervisors in the police department stating that the evidence custodian noticed cocaine and cash from the evidence locker had gone missing. The memo cites specific case numbers from which the evidence was taken.

As reported by the Arctic Sounder last month, according to the memo, $5,395 and an indeterminate amount of cocaine were noticed missing on Feb. 13 and Feb. 19, 2013.

The officer disclosed the memo to various agencies, both state and federal, about eight weeks ago.

Last month, police chief Leon Boyea sent an email to the department announcing his resignation, effective July 1, citing personal family reasons as the cause of his leaving the department. In the email, Boyea thanked his employees and fellow officers for their support.

If a sworn officer or officers is found to have engaged in misconduct by way of either investigation, the Alaska Police Standards Council would look into the matter to see if they meet minimum requirements set by the state agency to continue to serve in Alaska.

The employees may be aware there is a fact-finding or administrative investigation in progress; however, it is not common practice for the specific details or interim findings to be made known until after an investigation is complete, said Kelly Alzaharna, the executive director of the Alaska Police Standards Council.

At this time, the council is not involved in allegations of misconduct regarding the missing evidence.

"The officers aren't going to know," Alzaharna said. "The administration is not going to sit down and give them details about what's going on."

The Alaska Police Standards Council oversees sworn officers in the state to make sure they meet the minimum requirements for employment and certification. They don't oversee entire forces.

Once an officer is certified, the standards council is sometimes involved if there are allegations against an officer that would cause him or her to no longer meet minimum standards.

"Whenever the investigation is complete, if there is misconduct, it could be by a civilian employee, and if that's the case then (the council) is not involved at all," added Alzaharna.

If there is an allegation against a sworn officer, depending on what the allegation is and if it violates minimum standards, then the council may step in to determine if that officer meets requirements to continue to serve in Alaska.

The council gets information about various cases from many different sources. They are notified when an officer is hired and when an officer leaves their respective department, whether through termination or resignation.

If a department chooses to hire an outside investigator to look into allegations of misconduct, depending on the magnitude of the allegation, Alaska State Troopers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Internal Revenue Service could be called in to explore the claim.

In some cases, when there are questions involving evidence or the evidence room, private companies are sometimes hired for an audit, said Alzaharna.

There are approximately 50 council-regulated agencies in the state, including the North Slope Borough Police Department. The council oversees police, correctional, probation and village police officers, though there are different regulations for each.

This story first appeared in The Arctic Sounder and is republished here with permission.


By JILLIAN ROGERS
The Arctic Sounder