Two Bella Vista Police Employees Fired, Investigation Reveals Mishandling Of Evidence

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BELLA VISTA (KFSM) -- Two Bella Vista Police Department employees have been fired after an investigation revealed they mishandled evidence, according to police chief James Graves.

On Dec. 11, someone with the department noticed a discrepancy having to do with the handling of evidence. Graves said this was a concern and he immediately began working to determine if it was a problem or a one-time mistake. An internal audit determined multiple discrepancies, Graves said.

Graves met with the Benton County Prosecutor's Office, and it was decided that the best course of action would be to have outside investigators look at the discrepancies.

Investigators with the Benton County Sheriff's Office determined that officers Clayton Roberts and Mike Kugler were involved in the mishandling of evidence.

Benton County prosecutors believe that most the mishandled cases were drug related. If the former officers are found guilty following the criminal investigation, it could affect some of the courts previous rulings.

"The evidence that we think is going to be a problem or either missing or compromised really relates to drug cases so we're not talking about to my knowledge any case that involves violent crimes or anything like that," Smith said.

Graves said he fired both employees on Dec. 20. He said the decision was based on policy violations having to do with the code of conduct and property and evidence handling.

Moving forward Graves plans to implement new evidence protocol adding more frequent audits to safe guard the department.

"As far as the service we provide individuals in the community, it is not going to impact that whatsoever," Smith said. "They're going to get the same service that they've received. But it is never a good thing when you lose tenured employees that have a lot of expertise."