Accreditation suspended: Youngman says previous DCSO admin misled officials; Cain says honest mistake

March 2, 2023 | 12:10 am

Updated March 1, 2023 | 9:20 pm

An evidence warehouse used since 2011 by the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office was not disclosed during accreditation inspections in 2015 and 2020. The Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police suspended DCSO’s accreditation last month after current Sheriff Brad Youngman self-reported the issue following an internal audit. Youngman feels a previous DCSO administration misled state officials during the process, while former Sheriff Keith Cain said it was nothing more than an honest mistake.

The loss of accreditation is solely related to the warehouse, which was built in 2011 at the request of Cain. The Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police (KACP) accreditation is completely voluntary, and having it suspended will not affect any of the daily operations or funding for the sheriff’s office.

A memorandum obtained by Owensboro Times details a November 2010 letter from Cain to then Judge-Executive Reid Haire and then County Commissioner Bruce Kunze regarding the need for a new DCSO storage facility.

In the letter, Cain noted that DCSO was “rapidly approaching” a point at which they would run out of space to store records, property, and evidence in their offices at the Daviess County courthouse. 

He also noted that at the time DCSO was storing evidence in a privately owned storage facility and privately owned barn, and that at times they parked vehicles of evidentiary value at the county landfill. 

Cain wrote that there were “some potentially serious issues storing evidence in that manner.” One concern was that the citizen who was leasing that storage facility at the time stored his property in the same building, and that “very little effort would be needed to access the area in which our evidence was located.” Additionally, he wrote, items were stolen from vehicles at the landfill, and there were varying degrees of vandalism and weather damage to the vehicles.

That all led to the construction of the warehouse, which is now used for storing nearly all DCSO evidence.

One part of the KACP accreditation program includes inspections of all of an agency’s facilities. However, KACP was never made aware of the DCSO warehouse during the initial accreditation in 2015 or the reaccreditation in 2020.

Shortly before Youngman took over as Sheriff at the start of 2023, he attended a seminar about accreditation. After taking office, he felt that there might be an issue.

“After attending a presentation on the accreditation process and learning how in-depth, detailed, and tedious the process is, I became concerned that something wasn’t right,” he said. “A 3,200-square-foot warehouse used to store department evidence absolutely should have come up during this process.”

Youngman reached out to KACP Executive Director Shawn Butler to see if he knew about the warehouse. Butler told Owensboro Times on Wednesday that prior to Youngman’s report, KACP “didn’t know it existed.” 

Butler said there is a point on the accreditation application that asks if an agency has any satellite facilities or off-site warehouses. There was no such indication on the DCSO application, he said.

“(DCSO) didn’t report to us that they had an off-site facility for evidence (in 2015 or 2020),” Butler said. “That’s a no-no. When Sheriff Youngman came on, he did report it and we took a look at it, and it didn’t meet the (accreditation standards). Even though he self-reported it, my executive board looked at it and they decided to remove them from the program until they can get everything corrected, and they can go back through.”

In his letter to KACP, Youngman wrote that “I believe the reason this warehouse was not revealed to your inspectors is because it does not meet the accreditation standards and would have prevented the attainment of the initial accreditation as well as re-accreditation.”

Bill Thompson, who served as chief of investigations under Cain, spearheaded the initiative of accreditation. He said the nondisclosure was just an oversight. 

“To my knowledge I was not advised that ‘off-site’ facilities were to be inspected or made a part of the process. However, as the person appointed by Sheriff Cain to obtain accreditation for that agency, I take responsibility for that,” Thompson said in a text message Wednesday. 

Thompson said the state inspector for the accreditation process visited DCSO on several occasions and made numerous recommendations regarding the physical security of the evidence “on-site” lockers and processing, physical upgrades to the patrol area, and physical upgrades to the administrative offices. But the inspector was never taken to or made aware of the warehouse.

“Each and every recommendation made by the review board was carried out in a diligent manner. The entire process consumed approximately 2 years of my time, energy, and effort,” Thompson said. “The accreditation manual of DCSO is over 700 pages long. Could I have missed the sentence or paragraph about off-site facilities? Apparently I did. But I can assure this community it was done unintentionally. I put too much time and effort in that process to intentionally jeopardize that project.”

Cain told Owensboro Times that Tuesday was the first time he was aware of any issue with the warehouse. 

“I called Bill … and it’s my understanding that (regarding) the off-site facility, he was unaware it had to be inspected,” Cain said. “I think what we’re dealing with was a mistake, but it was an honest mistake. It’s unfortunate, but it occurred. But there was certainly no ill intent or any nefarious motive for it. As Bill indicated to me, it was just something that he had overlooked.”

Cain added, “Ultimately what occurred in that office was my responsibility, so if there’s any fault here it should lay on my shoulders, not Bill Thompson’s.”

Regarding Youngman’s insinuation of Cain’s administration misleading KACP, Cain said, “That’s absolutely not true. … He worked in that office. He knew how that office was run. He knows Bill Thompson’s integrity, and it’s unquestionable. For Sheriff Youngman to suggest that this is anything other than an honest mistake, in my personal and professional opinion, it’s disappointing. It’s frustrating, and he’s wrong.”

Asked whether he thought it was an oversight or if KACP was misled on purpose, Butler said, “I just don’t know. It would be hard for me to speculate on that. I mean, I really don’t know.”

Regardless, the KACP Executive Board voted on February 22 to remove DCSO from the accreditation program until the problems are resolved — a move that Youngman expected.

“I completely agree with the KACP Board’s decision to suspend our accreditation. Failure to take action on their part would send the wrong message to other agencies,” he said. “It is very disappointing to have to do something like this right off the bat. But to continue enjoying the benefits of being accredited while knowing it was obtained under false pretenses is not something that I nor my command staff is willing to do.”

DCSO must also complete the entire accreditation process from the beginning before being considered for reinstatement.

“They’re gonna have to go back through the whole program and prove that they meet every standard again, which you have to do every 4 years anyway,” Butler said. “But they’ll have to do it basically from ground zero, and there’s 177 standards they’ll have to go through.”

Youngman and DCSO have already been diligently working to address the issues. He laid out a 14-point plan of action to KACP, including adding security cameras, repairing lighting, and having a third party complete an initial audit and inventory of items.

Youngman also wanted to make clear that no evidence problems have been identified. 

“The integrity of the evidence is solid,” Youngman said. “I’ve talked to Commonwealth Attorney Bruce Kegel about that. He has no problems. It’s purely a matter of a previous administration misleading the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police to obtain accreditation.”

Butler said he’s not aware of any legal issues that would come from not disclosing the warehouse and that only the accreditation is affected.

Youngman said he hopes his actions show his dedication to being honest and running DCSO the right way.

“During my campaign I promised the people of Daviess County that transparency and accountability from the Sheriff’s Office,” he said. “Now that I am in office I am solely responsible for the actions of this office and integrity matters to me.”

March 2, 2023 | 12:10 am

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