In the summer of 2019, reports began to circulate that the Vincennes Police Department was being investigated by the FBI.

Shortly thereafter, in August of 2019, then city police chief Dusty Luking was placed on administrative leave.

A report issued this week by the Indiana State Board of Accounts finally provides some answers as to why.

The compliance report, filed on Jan. 8 and instigated in the summer of 2019, indicates the investigation began when Luking himself notified the Indiana State Police of some missing money — nearly $32,000 — from the Vincennes Police Department’s vault, located at headquarters, 501 Busseron St.

The year-long investigation that unfolded — which included the FBI, ISP and the State Board of Accounts — cites internal controls that were seriously lacking, so much so that they can’t find the $32,000 at all.

Luking, too, is accused in the report of using police funds to purchase a laptop computer for personal use and in the misappropriation of money, specifically funds that were given to the VPD by the Vincennes Community School Corp. for the reimbursement of a school resource officer.

Instead of reimbursing the city’s General Fund, as was reportedly the agreement between the city and the VCSC, the money — a total of $97,000 paid over three years — was placed into a separate donation fund and used to buy everything from new vehicles to a side-by-side and decals.

The Vault

The State Board of Accounts’ report indicates that the $31,957 missing from the vault was never located during the investigation, nor could they determine whether or not it was taken all at once or in smaller amounts over time.

The missing money was reported when a court order demanded the VPD give it back to the person it was confiscated from during an arrest, according to the state report.

The investigation revealed that four VPD “staff members” held keys to the evidence vault, but they also found that a spare key was kept in an unsecured location, therefore could have been accessed by anyone at anytime.

The state also discovered that there were no cameras in or around the evidence vault, and a simple handwritten “sign in, sign out” system was missing several signatures and times.

There was no electronic logging system to identify who — and when — was entering the vault.

SRO Payments

The VPD first assigned a school resource officer to the VCSC back in 2013; an official memorandum of understanding, however, wasn’t executed until the fall of 2018, according to the state report.

The VCSC paid to the city $32,000 for school year 2013-2014, another $15,000 for the 2014-2015 school year and $50,000 for the 2015-2016 school year.

While the understanding existed that the money was to be used “solely to fund an SRO,” according to the audit, the money was placed into the police department’s Donation Fund.

Items purchased with the money included a 2015 Dodge truck and partial payment for a 2016 Polaris Ranger as well as police gear, “promotional items” and decals for vehicles — all for police department use.

Personal Purchases

According to the audit, Luking purchased with city funds a laptop computer in December of 2018. The claim listed the computer was for a “Car 16,” but after conducting interviews of local law enforcement, the state discovered that there was no “Car 16” and that the laptop was being used by one of Luking’s family members.

The report also indicates that Luking used city funds to purchase additional uniform items; a police officer’s annual salary already includes a stipend for such uniforms.

Also, according to the audit, Luking didn’t always provide detailed invoices or receipts for purchases made with a city-issued credit card, although it doesn’t mention any amounts or transactions specifically, only that they included “meals and a Walmart purchase.”

Conclusions

Overall, the audit sites a general lack of oversight and internal controls at VPD, ones that, if in place, likely wouldn’t have allowed for the missing funds or the misappropriation of money at all.

Luking retired in the fall of 2019, and city officials say they have already implemented a handful of policy changes.

New city police chief Robert Dunham, for instance, has added 24-hour vault monitoring cameras, and new locks were installed.

Access to the vault, too, is now documented and logged into a computer system, including the officer’s name and the date and time of entry.

All items in the vault have ben inventoried and catalogued into the same computer system for better tracking and accountability, according to the report.

The clerk treasurer’s office, too, has implemented a better system of internal controls for all departments, one that better tracks reimbursement funds, making sure they get where they need to go, and that all personal reimbursement requests are denied without the proper documentation, such as receipts.

The state audit findings were discussed during an exit interview with members of the city council in December.

City council president Tim Salters and District 1 member Brian Grove issued a statement that was released with the audit itself.

In it, they call the lack of oversight at the VPD “unacceptable.”

“This report only emphasizes the importance of openness and transparency,” the statement reads, adding that “changes have already been made and will continue to be made.”

And while the two councilmen say the report’s findings are “disheartening,” they add that the “actions of one individual don’t define our police department.”

“We are blessed to have a (police) department filled with individuals willing to sacrifice everything for their community, and we can’t thank them enough,” the statement reads.

The Sun-Commercial attempted to reach Luking for comment, but he did not respond.

The state audit does not indicate whether or not he will face any criminal charges as a result of the report’s findings.

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