City policeman arrested for stealing
Eight-year veteran officer arrested for taking counterfeit bills from evidence
By Patrick Yost
An eight-year veteran with the Madison Police Department was arrested last Thursday and charged with one count of theft by taking after he allegedly took $900 in counterfeit bills from evidence storage in 2008.
According to Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent In Charge Tom Davis, Matt Strange, 36, Madison, was arrested on the day after the GBI was alerted to the possible theft. Davis said the arrest and investigation stemmed from a 2008 incident in which Strange had been called to the then Bank of Morgan County to retrieve nine $100 bills that were allegedly counterfeit.
Strange collected the bills, reports state, and allegedly left them in an evidence bag on the desk of Assistant Chief Carl Jones.
However, according to a disciplinary action report in Strange's personnel file, obtained through a Freedom of Information Request by the Morgan County Citizen, Strange was warned by supervisor Colin Campbell of "negligent handling of evidence" on March 1, 2010 after, the reports state, "all attempts to locate this $900 in cash have failed."
Davis said the GBI was initially contacted by an investigator with the Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) and Morgan County Sheriff Robert Markley regarding the alleged theft. Markley said he was contacted by a complainant who allegedly provided information regarding the theft.
Strange was a corporal with the Madison Police Department and has been employed by the department since July 2004, said Madison Police Chief Travis Stapp. Stapp said he was disheartened and disappointed by the arrest. "It's a sad day when a police officer gets arrested. We are held to a higher standard. People get arrested every day for what he allegedly did. But we will move forward."
Davis said the investigation, which lasted less than a day, progressed quickly in large part because of the cooperation the city of Madison Police Department. "Chief Stapp has been totally above board and cooperative throughout this entire investigation," he said.
Strange was terminated by the Madison Police Department on Tuesday, Stapp said.
According to Strange's personnel file, he was disciplined by Campbell for losing the counterfeit bills. "This type of evidence should never have been left on Assistant Chief Jones' desk. Officer Strange also did not notify Assistant Chief Jones or his immediate supervisor to advise them that he was leaving the cash on the desk. While Officer Strange did fill out a property receipt when taking the cash from (the victim); he did not file any entry in reference to exchanging custody of the cash to Assistant Chief Jones," the disciplinary report states.
"This type of evidence should have been transferred into the custody of Assistant Chief Jones in person," the report reads.
Davis said his investigation would be released to Assistant District Attorney Alison Burleson "in the next few days" to determine if further charges would be filed.
Printed in the August 9, 2012