LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - La Crosse Police and the La Crosse County District Attorney's office released more details Thursday on evidence manipulation involving a police officer.
La Crosse Police Chief Ron Tischer released a statement on what led to former Lt. Brian Thomson's arrest in August. During the investigation into Thomson by the state Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation, fictitious controlled substances were placed into evidence and under observation. Those items were removed by Thomson according to the statement. He was arrested then on charges of attempted possession of a controlled substance and misconduct in office.
Thomson resigned his position with the department at the time of his arrest.
In the Thursday release, Chief Tischer stated, "the actions of Brian Thomson are not in any way an accurate reflection of the hardworking, dedicated, and ethical police officers in the La Crosse Police Department. Brian Thomson shattered the trust of our agency and the community, and in doing so, must now face the consequences of his actions."
Formal criminal charges are still pending. Thomson is scheduled for a court appearance in early October.
Based on the Thomson investigation, police conducted an audit of their evidence area that revealed items that the department believes 'have been manipulated after the original packaging of the evidence.' The department release stated they're working with the state crime lab to see if any of the evidentiary drug items need additional testing.
In a statement to area defense attorneys regarding discoveries made in the evidence audit, La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke said because "it may be the package was torn, or the tape holding the package appears to have changed from the time the original seal was made."
Gruenke's notice said attorneys should soon receive information regarding the cases involved.
Gruenke's notice was sent to the La Crosse Public Defender's office and the La Crosse Area Criminal Defense Lawyers organization.
Gruenke was unavailable for comment when his office was contacted by WXOW.
Copies of both the La Crosse Police Department and DA's office releases are below.
Text of La Crosse Police Department release
Date: September 12, 2013
Subject: Update on the arrest of Brian Thomson
Contact Person: Captain Robert Lawrence – 789-7204
On August 13, 2013 the La Crosse Police Department, with assistance from the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, conducted an investigation in to the suspected illegal activity of former Lieutenant Brian Thomson. The La Crosse Police Department placed fictitious controlled substances under observation and it was revealed that Lt. Thomson removed these items. Subsequently, Brian Thomson was arrested on the charges of attempted possession of a controlled substance and misconduct in office.
The La Crosse Police Department has since conducted a thorough audit of our evidence area and has identified a number of evidentiary items that we believe have been manipulated after the original packaging of the evidence. Due to this discovery, we have updated prosecutors regarding evidentiary drug items that we feel have been tampered with. We have also consulted with the Wisconsin Crime Laboratory to determine the necessity for additional testing of these evidentiary items. Through the use of the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation as the agency to conduct the criminal investigation, the La Crosse Police Department has ensured the highest level of transparency throughout this entire process.
Chief Tischer stated, "the actions of Brian Thomson are not in any way an accurate reflection of the hardworking, dedicated, and ethical police officers in the La Crosse Police Department. Brian Thomson shattered the trust of our agency and the community, and in doing so, must now face the consequences of his actions."
The La Crosse Police Department will continue to work closely with the La Crosse County District Attorney's Office to ensure that any case involving possible tampered evidence is handled in the most appropriate manner and that those responsible for illegal drug activity in our community are held equally accountable.
The La Crosse Police Department is reviewing its evidence handling processes and its security procedures to ensure that all measures are taken to prevent this type of activity from occurring in the future. Interim corrective actions have already been taken.
Ronald J. Tischer
Chief of Police
Lt. Patrick Hogan
Professional Standards/Community Service Bureau
Text of District Attorney Tim Gruenke's release:
"As a result of an incident with a La Crosse Police Officer manipulating evidence inappropriately, the Department is undergoing an audit of their evidence room. As a result of that they have identified a number of items of evidence that appear to have been manipulated in some way since originally being packaged.
I use the word "manipulated" because it may be the packaged was torn, or the tape holding the package appears to have changed from the time the original seal was made.
A number of you have already been notified of problems in cases coming up quick for some hearing. In the next day or so more of you will receive a letter identifying the case and the item of evidence where the police have discovered there may have been some tampering. The crime lab is conducting further examination to determine what if anything has been compromised.
If you receive a letter it should contain the case number and defendant name, the property item description, and the description of what was discovered wrong or suspicious. If you have any questions regarding the letter, the process we are following, or anything else, you can contact me or the ADA assigned to the case.
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