Alexandria Public Safety Director Charles T. Strobel vigorously defended yesterday his handling of a police drug investigation, denying allegations that he prematurely ended the investigation when the names of two city officials were mentioned in taped conversations made by an informant.
Meanwhile, Alexandria Mayor Charles E. Beatley called an emergency meeting of the City Council for today to determine how the council should proceed with its own inquiry into the police department's handling of the drug investigation.
The council wants to know whether there was an investigation, whether it ended, and whether it has been reopened and is still going on, Beatley said. "We on council don't have the remotest idea and we should know," he said.
Strobel said yesterday that he is not concerned about a council investigation. "The mayor and members of council have that prerogative . . . . I have confidence in myself and in my department," he said.
Strobel and Beatley were responding to allegations printed in Thursday's edition of the Alexandria Port Packet, a weekly newspaper, which reported that Strobel abruptly ended the drug investigation in March.
It is not known whether the tape, supplied by an informant carrying a hidden recorder, according to the Packet, simply notes the officials' presence in a place that was under investigation as a cocaine sales center or whether the officials are heard speaking on the recording.
Strobel emphasized yesterday that the drug investigation had not found any evidence of criminal conduct on the part of Alexandria Sheriff Michael E. Norris, whose name was mentioned on the tape. Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney John E. Kloch, who was also at a news conference, agreed with Strobel. Kloch said he had seen police reports of the investigation.
Police investigators familiar with the investigation also said the recordings did not contain evidence of criminal activities by either Norris or the other official, who has been described as a high-ranking police officer, but said they believed the officials' presence at a place where drug sales were being investigated should have been followed up.
The police investigators, who asked not to be named, and the Packet allege that Strobel called off the investigation without following up on the officials' activities.
Strobel said the investigation has been going on since February. However, he said there was "a lull" in the investigation because one of the original investigators on the case took some "field notes" with him when he resigned from the police force.
Police investigators familiar with the case say the notes were not retrieved from the investigator until September, six months after he was taken off it.
Strobel said yesterday that there were initially two police investigators on the case.
Both were removed from the investigation, one of them "as a result of a lack of cooperation," he said. That investigator later resigned while under internal review, Strobel said.
Kloch's remarks appeared at times to contradict Strobel's. The commonwealth's attorney told reporters that "sometime in late spring and early summer it came to my attention that the investigation was terminated for lack of evidence."
But Kloch said he received a memo dated Sept. 28 from the police asking that his office review the investigation.
Strobel said he told City Manager Douglas Harman, to whom he reports, in late February that Norris' name had turned up in an investigation. He said he informed Harman in late spring that nothing in the criminal investigation implicated Norris.
Norris has denied any wrongdoing and said that the allegations about him were a result of some city officials "setting a stage for their own spring campaigns."