The police chief of Dumfries was suspended yesterday pending an investigation by town officials of the 10-officer department's administration, record-keeping and handling of evidence.
Chief Conrad G. LaBossiere's suspension comes after two earlier state investigations -- one by the state police, the other by officials from the Department of Criminal Justice Services -- revealed that arrest records were in disarray and that evidence, such as seized drugs, weapons and money, had been left in unsecured areas and filed haphazardly. City officials said many of the problems still exist.
The chief's suspension is the latest in a series of problems to beset the police department in this small town (population 5,500) in eastern Prince William County, 35 miles south of Washington. Dumfries, which straddles Route 1 north of Quantico Marine Corps Base, has had a thriving drug trade, which police have battled for several years, often with inadequate resources.
According to Mayor Samuel Bauckman, an annual audit of the department last month revealed that problems continue.
"It's still the old evidence bugaboo that seems to be bugging us at this point in time," Bauckman said. "I don't know that we are trying to place the blame on any one person. This was a necessary move in order to get to the bottom of this thing."
LaBossiere was named chief 14 months ago at a tumultuous time after the resignation of the town's longtime police chief and half the department's officers.
LaBossiere said he believes that his suspension may be "retaliation" for a grievance he filed against Town Manager Tom Harris this year after Harris had placed a criticism of the chief's work in his file.
Harris said in an interview that the investigation had nothing to do with LaBossiere's grievance.
The state police investigation was initiated by Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert in April at LaBossiere's request.
Ebert, who described the department at the time as being "in a mess," concluded that improper record-keeping made it impossible to prove what evidence was missing and if there was any criminal intent by officers involved.
Bauckman said the internal investigation, which he and Harris are conducting, may be complete within two weeks.