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Indy Chief Resigns in Evidence Mishandling

Indianapolis Police Chief Paul Ciesielski has stepped down after it was discovered that a second vial of blood drawn shortly after the crash involving suspended police officer David Bisard was mishandled by police, city officials said Tuesday.

Mayor Greg Ballard and Public Safety Director Frank Straub said during a news conference that the vial had been mishandled in the police property room, and that the FBI was being brought in to investigate possible criminal intent.

"I want to express how angry and disgusted I am that this happened," Ballard said. "The mishandling of evidence in this case erodes the public's confidence in this police department."

Straub said it was recently discovered that the second vial of Bisard's blood that was taken after the August 2010 crash had been transferred to the property annex room at the police academy in November 2011, where it was not properly refrigerated.

The vial remained there until early this month, when the move was discovered, and the vial was then returned to refrigeration, Straub said.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry stressed that his office did not authorize or order the second vial of blood to be moved, and said that he is "exceedingly concerned" about the mishandling.

"We are currently working with an independent lab to clarify the implications of testing the blood from the second vial, and do not yet know if or how the blood was affected," Curry said in a statement. "At this time, we do not believe these developments will negatively impact the prosecution of this case. Regardless of these developments, this office is continuing to move forward with the prosecution against Officer Bisard.?

Ballard said that Ciesielski resigned as chief once the mishandling was discovered and that Deputy Chief Valerie Cunningham, who oversaw the internal Bisard investigation, stepped down as the head of the department's Professional Standards Division and has been placed on administrative leave.

Lt. Paula Irwin and the property room supervisor have also been placed on administrative leave, Straub said.

Bisard was on duty when he struck motorcyclists stopped at a red light on Aug. 6, 2010, killing Eric Wells and injuring Kurt Weekly and Mary Mills, police said.

A blood test administered about two hours after the crash showed that Bisard had a blood-alcohol content level of 0.19 percent.

Bisard was charged with seven felonies, but former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi withdrew alcohol-related charges because he doubted the evidence would be admissible in court because standard procedures weren't followed in the way the evidence was procured.

A judge ruled in May 2011 that blood-alcohol evidence could not be used to bring charges of drunken driving, but ruled later that it could be used to support a charge of criminal recklessness.

Last week, a Marion County judge ruled that prosecutors could test a second vial of Bisard's blood drawn shortly after the crash, which is when the mishandling was discovered.

Straub said the overall culture of the department needs to change.

"This is just another unnecessary incident in this police department. We have to stop blowing ourselves up. We have to hold ourselves accountable as a police department," Straub said. "We knew that officers were drinking on duty. We knew that officers were going to strip clubs ? but we didn't hold them accountable. You don't fix history in two weeks or two years."

Rick Hite, who spent 32 years with the Baltimore Police Department in Maryland and has worked as a consultant in Indianapolis, has been named interim police chief.

"This is an opportunity to say that we're sorry to the families, but at the same time, we're going to try to build the brand of IMPD," Hite said. "We have to make examples who don't (do their work right). I was called upon to lead, and I will lead."

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