Hillsborough police altered accreditation records
Posted April 15, 2010
Hillsborough, N.C. — Records tied to the accreditation of the Hillsborough Police Department were improperly backdated to demonstrate compliance with various standards, Town Manager Eric Peterson said Thursday.
The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA, is a nonprofit credentialing organization that allows law enforcement agencies to voluntarily demonstrate that they meet an established set of professional standards. CALEA has about 460 standards that require proof of compliance.
An investigation determined that Hillsborough police didn't maintain timely documentation with at least 16 standards, and paperwork from 2008 and 2009 was then altered to make it appear it was done according to schedule, Peterson said in a statement.
“No indications of any problems regarding criminal record keeping and felony prosecution files have been found,” he said.
Former Police Chief Clarence Birkhead was aware of and produced the backdated documents, Peterson said. Birkhead, who denies any wrongdoing, resigned this month to focus on his campaign for Orange County sheriff.
Peterson said the department's accreditation manager, Zina Long, told officers that the backdating practice was acceptable and is done by other agencies.
Long is on suspension until April 23, when her employment with the department ends, Peterson said. He declined to say the reason for the suspension or whether she resigned or has been fired.
The altered records covered standards for off-duty employment, prisoner transportation, victim intimidation, sexual harassment complaints, search and rescue and other issues.
"The most disappointing and baffling aspect of this entire situation is that the backdating was not necessary to maintain compliance. It was, quite frankly, senseless,” Peterson said.
Mayor Tom Stevens said the backdating "really undermines the entire reason for the accreditation."
The altered records have been removed from the files and replaced with accurate documentation, said Lt. Davis Trimmer, who is acting police chief. Hillsborough officials are working with CALEA to determine whether the police department should continue its re-accreditation efforts.
Hillsborough is one of 28 law enforcement departments in North Carolina accredited by CALEA.
"I hope people understand that this is strictly an administrative issue," Trimmer said.