Macon police say a K-9 officer may have mishandled drug evidence four times. Police say Officer Ryan Willis was placed on a five-day leave and they planned to fire him. But after Willis appealed, he received a nine-day suspension.
Earlier this week, Willis got back on the job.
During a police Internal Affairs investigation, Lt. Charles Halligan questioned Willis for more than an hour and said he was untruthful and dodged questions. Willis' supervisor Lt. Kelly Monroe accused Willis of not turning in drug evidence four separate times during nine days in April, according to police records.
LISTEN: Internal Affairs Questions Officer Willis (Excerpt, Part 1)
LISTEN: Internal Affairs Questions Officer Willis (Excerpt, Part 2)
The documents said:
"During the interviews by Lt. Kelly Monroe, his supervisors and Lt. Halligan... it was noted that he was being very evasive in answering questions pertaining to the turning in of evidence in these (four) cases."
Willis told Halligan, "I don't remember the exact time or when. I just know that when they came up and said that I had dope in the car for eight days I didn't," said documents.
Crime lab surveillance video shows Willis never entered the drop area for evidence in those four cases, say police records. Willis said he turned in the evidence, got it back to complete paperwork, then returned it.
Macon Police Deputy Chief Mike Carswell said Willis insisted that police look back at the surveillance video.
"He really thought the tapes were going to vindicate him," said Carswell.
But they didn't help his case. Carswell said he believed Willis mixed up the dates but was not lying. Lying to a supervisor would make it a firing offense, he said.
"When I listened to them (Internal Affairs) and listened to him, just seemed there was a dispute," said Carswell.
Willis admitted to Lt. Halligan that the times he recorded on the evidence vouchers pertaining to the drug cases involved in this investigation, were estimated times and not actual turn in times," said police documents. "Willis knowingly turned in these evidence voucher sheets with false information (dates and times) to cover the fact his evidence was not turned in on time."
Carswell said, "he wasn't being untruthful, just disputed dates." He said Willis admitted to turning in the evidence late and that's "not enough to end someone's career."
He said if an officer did not turn in the drug evidence at all, then they would definitely be terminated. He admits that Willis' actions could affect the court cases in those four incidents. Police documents said in one of the cases, the drug evidence was turned in too late to be processed.
Carswell said officers are expected to turn in the evidence log that details the items, incident report and all evidence to the crime lab.
During the investigation, police searched Willis' cruiser and found several unmarked bags of drugs which he called "training dope" for his K-9.
Carswell said they get the drugs from the crime lab, and use drugs that are condemned or confiscated.
Willis told internal affairs the drug squad's policy is to check drugs out from the crime lab for K-9 training, then sign it back in. Willis admitted he had drugs in his vehicle for a long time. He said that's common practice to keep up dog training.
Carswell said that's not official policy.
He said they'll clarify with K-9 officers proper procedure when handling K-9 training and evidence. Carswell hopes the details will be outlined in a new police policy book expected this fall. He said they also plan to talk directly with the drug unit.
Police documents show Monroe wanted Willis taken off the drug unit due to the mishandling evidence cases. Carswell said he doesn't think that will happen anytime soon.
Also last year, police documents show Willis received a written reprimand for not properly processing evidence. They say Willis took some sunglasses from a person during a traffic stop and held them to see if there had been a burglary in which sunglasses were taken.
Instead of placing the sunglasses in the lab, he kept them in his vehicle trunk for months, until the owner filed a complaint.
Willis received a written reprimand.
He's been on the force eleven years.