Smyrna police officer Cpl. Cleveland McDuffie resigned Dec. 21 after an internal affairs investigation of a Nov. 16 incident in which missing police files were recovered.
“It was discovered that these files weren’t handled properly,” Smyrna Police Department spokesman Officer Mike Smith said. “In fact, they were discovered in Polk County.”
According to Smith, 133 separate Georgia Crime Information Center printouts and 126 separate items of evidence and other property from cases spanning a 10-year period were taken off premises by McDuffie without authorization.
Smith said the security breach is isolated.
“The department has policies and procedures in place that officers are supposed to adhere to,” he said. “Clearly, Cpl. McDuffie’s actions did not follow that. It goes against everything we as the police department do. It’s not how we’re supposed to handle evidence.”
The mishandling will not cost taxpayers money for retrials, according to Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds’ office.
“They notified the district attorney’s office, and the D.A.’s office determined it did not affect its old cases,” said Reynolds’ spokeswoman, Kim Isaza.
According to a memo from Lt. Norman R. Johnson of the Smyrna Police Department’s Internal Affairs department to Police Chief Stanley E. Hook, dated Dec. 17, Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jesse Evans addressed the issue in an email Dec. 6.
“Evans noted that they were satisfied with their investigation into the prosecution of the cases made by McDuffie that were associated with the evidence (Detective Ron) Eaton had identified,” Johnson wrote. “Evans wrote that those cases were completed appropriately and did not warrant any criminal charges being brought against McDuffie.”
Johnson reported the materials ended up in Rockmart in Polk County because an employee and former associate of McDuffie was supposed to burn them, but moved out of her home without doing so.
“The files were found in an outbuilding on property that was formerly owned by Jessica Goggins, a former records clerk for Smyrna PD CID,” Johnson wrote. “(McDuffie) told me that Goggins had a home cleaning business, and he hired her to clean his garage around the summer of 2011.”
In the garage were boxes containing duplicates of files McDuffie had worked on and brought home in 2009 because of renovations at the criminal investigation division where McDuffie worked, Johnson wrote.
“He said that he took the items home because there was nowhere for him to store them at work while the carpet was being replaced,” Johnson wrote. “To his knowledge, all the cases had been adjudicated or otherwise completed.”
Goggins said, according to Johnson, she had a “burn bin” at her house at 841 College St., and she and McDuffie set a price for the disposal.
“McDuffie noted that he looked through the boxes to see if any evidence, etc. was inside,” Johnson wrote. “He didn’t find any.”
However, a knife from a domestic violence case and a piece of carpet from a sex crimes case were found in the boxes, which McDuffie said were there because of an “oversight,” and he “just forgot” to return them to the police property room, according to Johnson.
Efforts to locate McDuffie and Goggins for comment by press time were unsuccessful.