‘Trust, but verify’

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By Joe Cardello
The Colchester Sun

“The men and women of this department have performed admirably during a time of scrutiny and strong disappointment,” said Colchester Police Chief Jennifer Morrison during an interview on Monday.

Morrison reflected on a Nov. 10 incident that ended in the arrest of former Detective Corporal Tyler Kinney. The former detective stands accused of stealing heroin and a gun from the Colchester Police Department evidence room. Kinney allegedly used drugs with Peter Burnett, a convicted felon, and furnished him with the stolen gun.

A near two-month internal audit of the Colchester Police Department’s evidence room and review of policies was prompted following the arrest of Kinney. On Jan. 21, Morrison and Colchester’s Town Manager Dawn Francis released the internal audit files to the public in order to remain as transparent as possible. Both Francis and Morrison released open letters to the community as well.

“The community has been very supportive,” Morrison said. “They expect us to do the right thing and we’ve done that. We’ve been as transparent as we can be and we’ve taken this very seriously and we’re moving forward in a positive direction.”

Francis explained that a 27-year veteran of the Vermont State Police and owner of DT Investigators Dan Troidl was retained to create an Executive Summary Report for Colchester Police Department. The report reviewed the events leading up to Kinney’s arrest and reviewed the practices and procedures of the department.

The report states that in June of 2014 the department was made aware of allegations that Kinney was involved in a sexual relationship and using heroin with a convicted felon named Peter Burnett.

Morrison is said to have admitted that the allegations seemed farfetched, but opted to launch an Administrative Review into the matter. Through deeper investigation the individual producing the accusations was deemed non-credible. After a denial of the allegations by Kinney himself the review was closed and labeled ungrounded.

An incident on Oct. 24 was presented in Troidl’s report that illustrated a suspicious event involving Kinney. A Colchester Police Officer requested Kinney’s assistance in the reweighing of marijuana from the evidence room. The officer noticed multiple inconsistencies with the evidence and brought the matter to the attention of a supervisor who did not follow proper protocol requirements according to General Order #45 – which would have entailed an investigation and the notification of Chief Morrison.

On Nov. 10, Troidl’s report continues, Burnett was taken into custody by Burlington Police after the execution of a search warrant. A .38 caliber revolver was discovered at his Burlington residence, which was traced back to the Colchester Police Department evidence room. According to Troidl, Burnett claimed that the pair had been using heroin together and confessed that he believed Kinney stole heroin and other paraphernalia from the evidence room.

The report states that Kinney admitted to Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents that he had been using opiates for around one year and that he admitted to stealing drugs from the CPD evidence room including those from the voluntary prescription medicine drop-off box located at the Colchester Police offices.

Troidl took the time to question members of the Colchester Police in order to learn more about Kinney. He also addressed the Command Staff with regards to the investigation conducted in June.

Kinney is portrayed in the report as an introvert who rarely socialized outside of the office. Troidl gathered from his interviews that most co-workers assumed Kinney spent his time off-duty with his family. He is described to constantly perspire, shake and rely on caffeine and chewing tobacco. With poor dietary habits and a large frame Kinney passed off his idiosyncrasies as side effects of a medical condition.

Fellow officers recalled suspicious instances when Kinney’s ‘disease’ seemed to overtake him. In both instances he is described as being grey and sweaty. He was admitted to hospital on one occasion for these symptoms.

None of his former employees have admitted to having prior knowledge of his drug addiction according to Troidl.

Troidl created a list of findings and recommendations in the wake of his investigation (see sidebar). He also noted in his Summary Report that multiple opportunities to detect Kinney’s misconduct were missed prior to the officer’s arrest. However, he does lay the responsibility for all incidents on Kinney who chose to disregard his oath and engage in drug use, fraternize with a known criminal and steal from the evidence room.

Vermont State Police Lieutenant Dee Barbic and Major Glenn Hall provided more recommendations following their evidence audit and policy assessment in conjunction with FBI Agent Jennie Emmons and Lieutenant Lance Burnham of the Vermont State Police (see sidebar).

These recommendations included oversight and accountability measures, systematic updates and security precautions.

Morrison outlined in her statement that a double lock system was added to both the temporary evidence locker and the storage area. Two property managers are required to be present to access any items of critical evidence. A barcode and inventory system has been purchased to streamline record keeping. Three cameras have been added to the evidence room and tamperproof inventory bags are in use. Redundant logs are being created for all evidence since the arrest of Kinney and a temporary locker has been purchased and installed in order to facilitate critical evidence if an officer is called out of the office during the middle of processing.

Morrison explained that the changes to General Order #45 – Property and Evidence Management – were substantial. She said that her department will strive to make systematic improvements for the future and continue to use best practices. Although the major internal renovations are completed they will always been working to ensure that the Colchester Police Department will never be in this position again.

“There is a lot of good that has come from this despite the bumpy road to get there,” Morrison said. “There’s been a sense of urgency in the department to update General Orders and it’s certainly created a understanding within the organizations of trust, but verify.”

For full reports and statements visit: www.colchestervt.gov/Police/inforelease.shtml

Evidence room inventory

Colchester Police Chief Jennifer Morrison provided the following information after she reviewed the Vermont State Police and the FBI’s internal audit of the CPD evidence room. Morrison noted that the information provided may not be fully complete because the inventory was created as part of the case against former Detective Kinney and records of evidence or destruction of evidence may have been changed or deleted.

  • $12,229 is missing or unaccounted for
  • Two firearms are missing from evidence; one was the .38 caliber revolver that was recovered from the home of Peter Burnett
  •  12 cases involving heroin – including canine training material
  • 73 cases involving marijuana or hashish; of those cases, 27 also involved missing drug paraphernalia
  • Four cases involving cocaine (powder or crystalline)
  • Multiple references to missing or undocumented destruction of drug paraphernalia
  • Approximately 15 references to pills or other evidentiary items that are missing, have been tampered with or other problems making it impossible to determine what evidence should have been present.

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Focus areas for CPD improvement

Dan Troidl, a 27-year veteran of the Vermont State Police and owner of DT Investigators, presented focus areas for the Colchester Police Department following his examination of current practices and policies.

  1. The Administrative Review that occurred in June regarding Kinney’s alleged drug use and relationship with Peter Burnett did not adhere to General Order #2 – Citizen Complaints and Internal Investigations. General Order #2 has since been reissued.
  2. General Order #27 was labeled as outdated and was rescinded by the Colchester Police Department.
  3. General Order #45 was labeled as outdated and has since been reissued
  4. Recommendation of performance evaluations, which hadn’t been performed since over 20 years prior to Morrison’s arrival on July 29, 2013.
  5. Recommendation to update the General Orders manual
  6. Recommendation to determine if more non-sworn support staff is necessary for the department

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Recommendations from the FBI and state police

The FBI and Vermont State Police provided recommendations for the Colchester Police Department following their evidence audit and policy assessment in response to former Detective Corporal Tyler Kinney’s arrest on Nov. 10.

  1. Eliminate the drug take back program.
  2. Establish a time frame for evidence submission.
  3. Field testing of suspected drugs with a witnessing officer and documentation.
  4. Accountability for controlled substances and money with parameters to determine when an additional officer should be summoned to witness counting and processing of cash and controlled substances.
  5. Development of a controlled substance destruction sheet.
  6. Additional security for high rick property and evidence.
  7. Adherence to evidence room procedures and documentation.
  8. Conduction of inspections and audits.
  9. Consideration of an evidence management software package.
  10. Better supervision and oversight.