In the wake of historic personnel changes and reports of low officer morale, inadequate equipment and questionable evidence handling procedures at the Sneads Police Department, the Sneads Town Council has asked state investigators to take a closer look at the department’s evidence room and policies.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will soon conduct a formal audit of the Sneads Police Department’s evidence room and evidence-handling policies, according to town officials. Newly appointed Sneads Police Chief Mike Miller called the audit “routine,” adding that the action is being taken at the behest of the Sneads Town Council.
“The town requested an audit of the evidence section,” Miller said said. “It’s not uncommon for police departments or municipalities to make such requests. We have arranged for them to do an audit as a safeguard to identify any potential problem and limit any liability. We consider this to be routine.”
Miller added there are currently no criminal investigations of the department or any current or previous employee of the department.
In November 2018, Sneads’ then-interim police chief Travis Cauthen said Florida Department of Law Enforcement auditors had recently visited the department in reference to evidence room material and policy, but that they left without examining evidence or taking any action.
Cauthen said at the time that state auditors would return, but he declined to say why their help was needed.
The Sneads Town Council appointed Cauthen to the interim chief job October 11, the day after Hurricane Michael struck the region. Cauthen replaced 13-year Sneads Police veteran Chief Burt McAlpin, who was fired by the town council at its October 9 meeting.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s ongoing involvement with the Sneads Police Department was confirmed at the Sneads Town Council meeting on January 8.
“FDLE is coming back to do an audit of evidence at the police department,” Sneads Town Manager Lynda Bell told council members in her official monthly report. “Evidence will now be held in the evidence room.”
Bell added that the esprit de corps of the officers at the police department, down somewhat since the firing of their longtime chief, has rebounded.
“There is a great change in the morale,” Bell said. “It’s better than I’ve seen in a while.”
Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesperson Jessica Cary confirmed the Town of Sneads’ audit request this past week.
“In addition to criminal investigations,” she explained, “FDLE provides assistance to law enforcement agencies. Sneads requested assistance of its evidence procedures. FDLE agents did a first visit to SPD last year but it was an informal meeting only. They will return if Sneads requests it, in order to provide information on best practices.”