POUND, Va. (WJHL) – The Town of Pound has removed its chief of police and terminated all other police officers.
According to a petition filed by Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp, town officials formally voted on May 18 to terminate “every officer in its police department.”
The petition states that while the town’s charter grants the town council the power to appoint a new chief of police, they have not yet done so.
“Nonetheless, the Pound Police Department maintains a locked room securing evidence of criminal violations,” the petition states. Evidence stored within the Police Department evidence room is necessary for the prosecution of criminal offenses currently pending in this Court.”
The town has demanded the former police chief provide the keys and access to the evidence room by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19.
However, the petition states that it is not clear who is to receive access to the evidence storage room.
“The decision of the town council was made without recognition of the consequences of what happens. There’s evidence, there are drugs, narcotics, guns, money, seized items that are within the possession and control of the police department,” said Slemp. “The code in Virginia is clear when a town like this creates a police department, the town is required to follow certain protocols and has the responsibility to secure evidence.”
Slemp writes in the petition that fired chiefs of police are required by law to give their records to their successors. Virginia law also demands that control of evidence remain in the hands of law enforcement.
“The Town of Pound established a police department and therefore vested in it the powers and
responsibilities of a law enforcement agency,” the petition reads. “As such, it must employ qualified personnel who are legally allowed to maintain and access the records of the Town’s law enforcement agency and any evidence.”
The petition states that the Commonwealth of Virginia would find it unlawful for a non-law enforcement individual to be given the keys to the evidence room and be provided access to the evidence within. To do so would result in an “illegal break in the chain of custody and obstruct justice in a manner possibly punishable as a class 1 misdemeanor.” He says the temporary order will allow the town to create a plan.
Slemp appeared at Wise County Circuit Court at 1 p.m. Wednesday to ask the judge to freeze the status quo and hold the items in the evidence room until an appropriate person is appointed.
“A lot of the evidence that’s stored there is in reference to pending cases pending before our court so we had to make sure and we’ve done that, to make sure the evidence is secured properly and to make sure there’s no break in the chain of custody that might influence or cause a problem in one of our cases,” said Slemp.
You can read the full petition and notice of hearing below:
Petition by WJHL News Channel Eleven on Scribd
“If they’re going to make that decision, it’s very important that they follow the law and put steps in place, not abruptly in the middle of the night… but have some advanced planning to figure out who this stuff goes to and what the Virginia law requires in order for them to actually do it the right way,” Slemp said.
There will be a review hearing Tuesday, May 25, at 1 pm to determine the next steps.