Missing ring leads to denied accreditation for Augusta County Sheriff's Office

By  | 

AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — In a press release Tuesday night, Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith announced the Sheriff's Office was denied accreditation.

The Augusta County Sheriff's Office was denied accreditation on Oct. 8. | Credit: WHSV

In the release, the sheriff said the office has made a lot of changes since the accreditation was forfeited in 2015 by then-Sheriff Randy Fisher. The release said that was done due to missing funds from the evidence room.

Since 2016, the sheriff's office has implemented changes, including yearly audits of the evidence room and added video surveillance.

That wasn't enough to help the agency regain its accreditation. The release said during the final assessment, four issues came up. ACSO had to change its policy to cover prisoner escape from the temporary detention cells in the county courthouse, it had to change its policy regarding warning shots and it was asked to get rid of a temporary storage cabinet in the narcotics task force office.

The fourth issue was discovered during the evidence room inspection portion. One item in evidence, a piece of costume jewelry from a burn barrel, was checked out of evidence in March 2016, just over two months into Smith's time as sheriff. The release said the investigator was trying to determine if this was evidence that Melvin Spencer had killed women other than his wife.

The item was still listed as "out" when the assessment team reviewed records in September.

The Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission offered feedback, according to the release, and the sheriff's office implemented new procedures to make sure items checked out by deputies were tracked and monitored.

Smith said he also began an internal affairs investigation into the status of the ring checked out by the investigator. He said the outcome was still pending, and the investigation is in process.

Despite these changes, the board declined to grant the office accreditation because of the missing ring.

Smith said he's ultimately responsible for his employee's actions.

“Let me be clear, the integrity and credibility of the evidence room is not in question.” Smith said in the release. “The handling of this evidence by the investigator is still pending investigation.”

He said in the release that this is the first step in the accreditation process and there will be an appeal within the next several days.

The release also notes the commission had "noted substantial improvements in the agencies and many positives."