Gwinnett County police have called an outside agency to investigate missing cocaine taken from a narcotics locker inside the department’s headquarters.
Chief Charles Walters called the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to determine who stole the unspecified amount of drugs.
“This was not a decision I made lightly,” Walters said Friday. “Never have I had to call in the GBI. That was a humbling and humiliating experience.”
The theft was discovered on March 19 after an audit of the locker — which holds drugs seized in busts and used by detectives in investigations — was done.
“We’re going to look at who has access to that safe,” Walters said, pointing out that only officers in the department’s narcotics division can get into the room where the locker is located.
No one from the GBI was available for comment.
In the past year, Walters said only about 10 supervisors have had access to the locker. And currently, only three — ranked lieutenant or higher — can get into the locker.
Gwinnett police also are conducting an internal administrative investigation to determine what fail-safes may have been compromised in the theft, Walters said.
“We want to make sure there hasn’t been a bookkeeping error,” he said, noting that the last audit of the narcotics locker was earlier this year. “Somehow the system has failed … whether it’s failed because the policies weren’t in place to take care of it, or because the people didn’t follow the policy, or a criminal act happened.”
Gwinnett County officials are supporting the independent investigation.
“The Board of Commissioners and I support Chief Walters’ decision,” Gwinnett County administrator Glenn Stephens said in a statement issued Friday evening.
Walters said the move to call in the GBI was made in an effort to be forthcoming to Gwinnett citizens.
“It’s important that the the Gwinnett County police Department have complete hands off of this investigation, just to ensure complete impartiality,” he said.
An internal investigation last year exposed narcotics and vice unit supervisor Lt. David Butler in a similar alleged theft.
One of the accusations against Butler was that he stole $4,000 of “flash money” — used by detectives to set up drug buys — from a safe in the department’s Special Investigations Section, near where the missing cocaine had been stored.
“Our policies or fail-safes were already there,” Walters said. “That’s how we caught him.”
Butler resigned from the department in July and turned himself in to police in October.
It’s unclear how long the criminal and administrative investigations will take, but Walters said he’ll recommend punishment for any administrative violations found and stand behind the GBI’s findings.
“I’ll support whatever they find. If there’s criminal activity, I’ll be the first to say that person needs to go to jail.”