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City of California investigating operations of police department

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California Police Department
California Police Department badge.

CALIFORNIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

City of California officials say they have initiated an investigation looking into the operations of the city's police department based on recent allegations.

A letter sent out from the city on Sunday said the investigation is addressing allegations relating to the safety of police department evidence brought forward by a former officer, Chris Tew. He alleges that various police evidence had not been properly stored or cataloged.

The former officer said he made the allegations because they affect the department's integrity.

"We can't expect the police department to hold citizens accountable for crimes they committed if police aren't also holding themselves accountable," Tew said.

The city said Mayor Norris Gerhart was made aware of the allegations by Tew on Dec. 30 -- Tew was an active police officer at that time. The release included the board of aldermen and the city attorney were made aware of the allegations the next day.

Days later on Jan. 4, the city held a board of aldermen meeting and voted 5-1 in a closed session to terminate two police officers. Documents obtained from the city did not include a reason for the firings. California Police Chief Daniel Hurt did not attend the meeting, according to the documents.

Tew told ABC 17 that he turned in his resignation the next day, Jan. 5, after finding out the other officers had been fired. Tew included that he discussed the allegations of the evidence with the officers who were fired.

"I want to make it clear that two people got fired for attempting to do the right thing and I pretty much ended my career because of these allegations," Tew said.

During a special meeting on Jan. 11, the city signed a contract with GBK Advisors and a special counselor as part of the city's comprehensive review of the police department. The city brought on GBK Advisors, run by former Missouri Department of Public Safety Director Gary Kempker, to oversee the police department's "evidence management issue," the release said.

"Mr. Kempker’s role will be to analyze the current conditions, policies and procedures, and operational effectiveness of the California Police Department and to identify potential areas for improvement or correction that complies with applicable laws, statutes and police standards,” city officials said in the release.

Osage County Prosecuting Attorney, Amanda Grellner, was also contracted as the city's special counsel to assist the city attorney in the investigation.

ABC 17 reached out to Grellner and Kempker about their roles in the investigation. The special counsel said she was not able to make any statements and Kempker had not responded as of Sunday.

It's unclear how long the investigation could take. The next board of aldermen meeting is scheduled for Feb. 1.

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Matt Ragsdale

Matt Ragsdale is a broadcast and digital producer at ABC 17 News.

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