Bella Vista Police Change Evidence Policy Following Former Detective Arrest

BELLA VISTA (KFSM) -- The Bella Vista Police Department is reviewing the way it processes evidence after a former detective was accused of stealing narcotics while on the job.

Clayton Roberts was fired from the department and was arrested after turning himself in Tuesday (Jan. 9). Benton County prosecutor Nathan Smith said they do expect to file charges against him.

Smith said the mishandling of evidence will make it difficult to prosecute cases that could be tainted.

"I think what we have is a situation where folks have been arrested for possession of drugs or some other charge like that and the evidence is simply no longer there, so that will obviously hinder our ability in court to meet our burden that they possessed whatever drug that was," Smith said.

Police chief James Graves said this is disappointing because they put a lot of trust in their employees. He said they have certain policies in place to prevent this from happening, but just like everyone else, police officers do make mistakes.

"I think the best thing to gauge a police department on is not whether or not they ever have any problems, it's how they deal with those problems. In this case, I feel like we dealt with this problem very professionally, thoroughly and swiftly and brought it to the best resolution possible," Graves said.

He said looking back, Roberts had no performance issues or anything that would lead them to believe he had a problem. The department has already put into place a new evidence custodian to monitor the evidence room.

"I looked at that policy and tightened it up a little bit as far as access. Then, as far as how we'll deal with things here as far as control and access," Graves said.

Graves said the department is going through an audit to ensure there will not be any problems when the evidence custodian takes over.

It could be a while before the department knows how many cases could be impacted by the investigation.

Another Bella Vista Police Department employee was also fired for being involved in the mishandling of evidence. Smith does not expect to file charges against him.