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Updated: Tuesday, 17 Apr 2012, 11:30 PM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 17 Apr 2012, 1:43 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Indianapolis Police Chief Paul Ciesielski is stepping down after the mishandling of the Officer David Bisard case.
An acting chief has been named and the city of Indianapolis has requested the FBI’s assistance in investigating the mishandling of the case.
Bisard has been on paid leave while his complicated case works its way through the court system. He’s accused of drinking on the job when he plowed into motorcyclists in August 2010 . Eric Wells died in the accident. Kurt Weekly and Mary Mills were seriously injured as a result of the crash.
Director of Public Safety Frank Straub said in early November, a vial of Bisard’s blood was transferred to the property annex room, which is not refrigerated to keep the blood at the proper temperature. The mishandling of the blood was uncovered on Monday, and Chief Ciesielski resigned Tuesday morning but will stay within the department.
The Marion County prosecutor's office discovered the issue while moving forward to test the second vial of blood. A judge granted permission for the testing last week .
"We are currently working with an independent lab to clarify the implications of testing the blood from the second vial, and do not yet know if or how the blood was affected," Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said in a prepared statement. "We do not know the events that transpired causing Officer Bisard’s blood to be moved while in IMPD’s custody, and we are exceedingly concerned that it occurred."
Curry also said the movement of the evidence directly disobeyed a court order.
“The hold order is there,” he told 24-Hour News 8. “The notation that there is a hold on these vials is right there on the paperwork. Whether the fact that this was moved was some sort of specific intent or a criminal act or just some monumental mistake? We don't know.”
Bisard's attorney, John Kautzman, said in a statement that the defense team was particularly troubled by the disregard for the court order.
But asked whether the movement of the vials could result in criminal charges, Curry thought for a moment, and replied: “It's not a crime in and of itself. It will be up to Judge Hawkins whether that would constitute contempt of his order.”
Curry met with victims in the case to inform them of what happened.
The FBI will work with the Professional Standards Division in investigating and to “uncover the truth,” Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said.
Valerie Cunningham and a detective have both been placed on administrative leave as a result of the discovery of the mishandled evidence. Rick Hite has been appointed interim police chief while the investigation continues.
Hite has been with the Public Safety Department since 2010, when he was hired as the deputy director for training and strategic initiatives. He is a Gary native and had been on the Baltimore City Police Department for 32 years prior to coming to Indianapolis.
As for the Bisard case, Curry said he is not giving up all hope yet that the evidence is lost. Asked if some portion of the second blood vial might still be salvaged for use in court, he responded quickly.
“Potentially so,” he said. “Because there are really two issues. First, is it possible to test it at all? We won't know that until the lab in Texas takes a look at it and tells us yea or nay. And then, more to the fundamental point - which has nothing to do with what transpired here - is the legal ruling on the propriety of the original blood draw.”
Bisard's attorney, however, balked at the idea that tests on the blood could still be done.
"There can be no doubt that this blood sample is tainted beyond repair, and a test of the blood would produce an unreliable and unusable result," Kautzman said in a statement released Tuesday night.
Kautzman also said the defense team would turn to the court to "seek relief" if the prosecution went ahead with plans to test the blood after Tuesday's revelations.
Straub also said the Bisard vial was not the only blood evidence that had been moved and stored in the police training annex, though he would not expound during Tuesday’s news conference on what, if any, additional cases might be involved.
“Hearing that at the press conference is the first time we're aware that other items were moved,” said Curry in response to Straub’s statement. “Obviously we're very interested in finding out the details of that. So, we're in the dark at this point as well. It's very concerning.”
Ballard said he is “angry and disgusted” and apologized to victims.
“At best, this matter shows gross incompetence,” Ballard said. “And at worst … possible criminal intent.”
Ballard said the news rocks the public's confidence in the department.
"It’s going to take time (to restore confidence), no question," Ballard said. "If I was looking from the outside, it doesn’t look very good."
Straub stressed the importance of moving the department
forward and not having continual issues.
“These types of incidences have to stop happening,” Straub said.
He said people have been aware of officers with drinking problems and going to strip clubs. Recent arrests resulted in some of those cases.
"We didn't hold ourselves or those officers accountable," Straub said.
Bisard's blood tests have been a center of controversy from the beginning. Although the first vial of blood tested with a blood-alcohol content of .19, the test and drunken driving charges were thrown out because a judge ruled the technician wasn't qualified to draw Bisard's blood.
Even earlier in Bisard's case, then-Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi dropped felony, alcohol-related charges against Bisard because of the blood tests. New prosecutor Curry re-filed charges using the blood evidence when he was elected.
Ciesielski was announced as the new chief of IMPD in February 2010 . At the time, he was IMPD's northwest district commander.
He began with the department in 1986 and is an FBI academy graduate. He replaced Michael Spears.
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