Former Florence Police Evidence Custodian arrested

Lauren A. Ezell

FLORENCE- A former civilian employee of the Florence Police Department has been arrested after a Lauderdale county grand jury issued an 119 count indictment for theft involving police evidence.

Ezell surrendered to authorities Tuesday and was booked in the Lauderdale County Detention Center. She was released from custody after posting bail in the amount of $179,500.

The following is a statement from Chief Ron Tyler:

“In November of 2016, I, Florence Police Chief Ron Tyler, received information regarding Florence Police Evidence Custodian Lauren Ezell, a civilian employee. The information, in the form of allegations, centered around narcotics and mishandling of narcotics evidence. Due to the serious nature of the allegations, Mrs. Ezell was immediately placed on administrative leave with pay. Since Mrs. Ezell was a member of the police department, I contacted Sheriff Rick Singleton and requested that he assign a detective to open a criminal investigation into the allegations made against Mrs. Ezell. Lt. Brad Potts was assigned by Sheriff Singleton and immediately began looking into the matter. In full cooperation with Lt. Potts, the Florence Police Department contacted the Huntsville Police Department and requested two investigators come to Florence and conduct a full audit of evidence housed in the Florence Police evidence vault. The Huntsville Police Investigators were in Florence for several weeks and conducted an audit of nearly 9,000 pieces of evidence. As a result of their findings, and as a result of Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department’s criminal investigation, the case was presented last week to the Lauderdale County Grand Jury. The Grand Jury returned an indictment against Lauren Ezell for 118 counts of Theft 2nd and 1 count of attempting to commit a controlled substance crime.

I take the conduct of our officers and civilian employees very seriously. Any misconduct from our employees threatens to betray the trust the public chooses to place in us. However, our employees are people and sometimes people make very poor decisions. When misconduct on the part of a Florence Police officer or employee is brought to our attention we will ensure the allegations are taken seriously, even to the point of requesting another agency open a criminal investigation. We are not above the law. We are entrusted to follow and enforce the law. I am both embarrassed and disgusted by this case. Embarrassed, because it is my responsibility to ensure this kind of incident never occurs. And in this case, I didn’t ensure the job was done properly. I am disgusted at the conduct that led to the investigation and what has ultimately led to the indictments.

Checks and balances were in place. However, gaps in these checks and balances were exploited. The investigation and audit exposed the gaps that had been exploited. The police department took immediate measures to close those gaps and implement new and more stringent practices. Moving forward, we are doubling our efforts to ensure this type of incident never duplicates itself again.

The exact details of this case cannot be outlined at this point as the case is now in the hands of the Lauderdale County District Attorney. However, it is important to note that of the 9,000 pieces of evidence audited, these 118 counts represent all the criminal evidence that was impacted. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of the cases reflected in the indictments had already been adjudicated and the evidence was due to have been destroyed.

While the investigation was still on-going, Lauren Ezell submitted her resignation and is no longer an employee of the police department. Her resignation did not impact the on-going criminal investigation.”

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