- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 17, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolispolice Chief Paul Ciesielski resigned Tuesday after his department mishandled a blood sample taken from a police officer who was driving a vehicle involved in a fatal crash.

Mayor Greg Ballard told a news conference that Chief Ciesielski submitted his resignation Tuesday, a day after police learned that a vial of blood taken from Officer David Bisard following the August 2010 crash had been moved and not stored properly.

The mishandling of evidence erodes public confidence in the police department, Mr. Ballard said, adding that he has asked the FBI to assist in an investigation.

“I want to express how angry and disgusted I am that this happened,” said Mr. Ballard, who apologized on behalf of the city to the families of the crash victims.

“At best, this matter shows gross incompetence; at worst, possible criminal intent,” Mr. Ballard said.

Public Safety Director Frank Straub said the former chief will remain a captain with the department.

An internal police investigation found that Officer Bisard was driving at 73 mph in a 40 mph zone while typing, sending and receiving messages on a laptop in the Aug. 6, 2010, crash that killed 30-year-old Eric Wells.

Police said no one at the scene suspected that Officer Bisard had been drinking, though a blood test showed he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19 — more than twice Indiana’s legal limit.

Officer Bisard was charged with drunken driving, but then-Prosecutor Carl Brizzi dropped that charge because the officer’s blood sample had not been taken in a hospital by someone certified to do so, as required by state law. Mr. Brizzi said the sample was not admissible as evidence.

Three high-ranking police department officers were demoted for their handling of the crash scene, and the internal probe concluded that the investigation was botched.

Prosecutor Terry Curry refiled the drunken driving charges early in 2011, but Marion Superior Court Judge Grant W. Hawkins threw them out because the blood wasn’t drawn in a hospital by someone legally certified to do so.

Judge Hawkins ruled last week that prosecutors could test a second vial of blood that was drawn from Officer Bisard following the crash, which also left Kurt Weekly and Mary Mills injured.

That was the vial that Mr. Ballard said was mishandled.

Officer Bisard still faces reckless homicide and other charges.

Deputy Chief Valerie Cunningham and Lt. Paula Irwin have been placed on paid administrative leave over the mishandling of the sample. Deputy Chief Cunningham headed the Professional Standards Division, and Lt. Irwin oversaw the property room. A civilian employee also was placed on leave.

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