CATEGORY: Tupelo Stories
DEPARTMENT ANSWERS NARCOTIC UNIT ALLEGATIONS
By Cynthia M. Jeffries
State auditors were examining invoices, receipts and pieces of paperwork Tuesday that the Tupelo Police Department submitted in response to questions the state had about management of money within the North Mississippi Narcotics Unit.
Last week, interim Police Chief Jerry Crocker took a box of materials to the state auditor’s office in Jackson. The box contained materials and explanations addressing each of the 178 allegations the state raised about the narcotics unit’s bookkeeping.
Neither city nor state officials would say exactly what was contained in the report, but Crocker did say the allegations centered around money matters.
Complete financial records are to be kept on all spending by the department, such as when officers use money to buy drugs, pay a drug informant or purchase clothes or cars for narcotics unit business. The unit, which covers seven counties and has 23 agents, uses between $30,000 to $50,000 annually on such activities.
The department is also supposed to keep track of money it seizes.
Crocker said the state’s exact questions and the city’s responses to those questions were confidential since both centered around undercover operations surrounding the multi-jurisdiction drug task force.
The city’s packet was delivered last Thursday, a day before the April 19 deadline given to the city to reply to the state’s allegations.
“I think we’ve explained (the allegations) as best we could,” Crocker said. “We are just awaiting their final decision.”
Norman Chronister, spokesman for the state auditor’s office, said Tuesday his office was going over the material and expects to release its findings within the next few weeks.
Police and city officials have been working on a reply to the state for nearly three months. In January, city officials received a lengthy report from the auditor’s office detailing problems it found with how the narcotics unit was handling or not accounting for its money.
The state has been investigating the North Mississippi Narcotics Unit for more than two years.
The investigation stemmed from a request made in November 1993 by two Tupelo City Council members – Ward 2 Councilman Sims Reeves and Ward 5 Councilman Tommy Doty.
The council members asked the state to look into whether city personnel were misusing city vehicles, whether the vehicles were improperly identified and whether a city-owned airplane used by the narcotics unit was being flown on personal trips. A log book showed the plane had been flown to places like Florida, New Mexico, Las Vegas and the Bahamas.
State Auditor Steve Patterson said he found no wrongdoing with the city’s vehicle usage, but said he had serious questions about the money handling of the Narcotics Unit.
Police and city officials have said all of the trips in the airplane were police-related.
The city has since sold the plane.
Fred Collins, assistant commander of the North Mississippi Narcotics Unit, said the unit has tried to improve its management of records and to become more efficient. The department has modeled its record keeping after the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. Collins said the state auditor’s office has also been working with the unit to improve its record keeping.