Canton Police Chief Resigns After Probe Finds Problems in Jorelys Rivera Search
With lingering questions over how the Canton Police Department handled the search for slain 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera, Mayor Gene Hobgood called for a review last month.
Update 2:19 p.m.
Jeff Lance, the chief of the Canton Police Department, has submitted his resignation, according to a statement from City Manager Scott Wood.
"As of yesterday afternoon Chief Jeff Lance has decided to pursue other career options and to submit his resignation as Chief of the Canton Police Department. He is a committed law enforcement professional who has served the people of Canton for over 20 years. We genuinely wish for him and his family the very best as he contemplates alternative career options. The search process for a new police chief will begin as soon as possible. Deputy Chief Todd Vande Zande will serve as Interim Chief of Police until further notice."
Open the attached PDFs to read the rest of the statement as well as the 17-page assessment of the police department's search for Jorelys Rivera.
Original Report 1:12 p.m.
Just days after Ryan Brunn confessed to the murder of Canton Elementary first-grader Jorelys Rivera, a new report has found deficiencies in the way the Canton Police Department handled the search for the girl.
Council member Bob Rush read the report.
"It would seem that the police department seemed to lack a sense of urgency with regard to the girl's disappearance and was inadequately trained in the proper and timely response procedures in this type of situation," he wrote in an email to City Manager Scott Wood and Mayor Gene Hobgood. "I would agree with the assessment that additional and recurrent training programs be implemented.
"It is also apparent that that lack of urgency was a top down attitude and it reflects poorly on the department that neither the Chief nor the assistant chief were immediately informed and that neither of them was on the scene post haste. The assumption that this was only a runaway was initially valid but no one at the top was there to make assessments. A lack of leadership at this juncture reflects badly on any leader when there is a crisis in the community."
Rush said he did not consider the failure of leadership to be "lethal" and said he would support any disciplinary actions Wood enforced.
Wood and Hobgood could not be reached for comment.
"We are taking the report seriously and analyzing it appropriately and will speak to the specifics contained therein before the end of the week," Wood said in an email to council members on Wednesday morning.
With lingering questions over how the Canton Police Department handled the search for Jorelys, Hobgood called for a "third party, unbiased" reivew during the Canton City Council's Dec. 15 meeting.
The Canton Police Department spearheaded the search, but the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Child Abduction Response Team was not called in until Dec. 4—two days after Jorelys was abducted at about 5 p.m. Dec. 2 near a playground at the River Ridge at Canton apartment community.
That team joined the search at 7 a.m. Dec. 5. Within hours, authorities found Jorelys' severely beaten body in a Dumpster from the apartment. An autopsy found that she likely died 60 to 90 minutes after she disappeared. Jorelys had been taken to a vacant apartment unit, sexually assaulted, stabbed an unknown number of times, tossed in a trash bin and compacted, GBI director Vernon Keenan said during a Dec. 6 press conference.
The next day, law enforcement arrested Brunn, a 20-year-old River Ridge maintenance worker who'd recently moved to area from Dahlonega.
LaGrange Public Safety Chief Louis M. Dekmar started in Canton on Dec. 28 at a pay rate of $150 an hour to "conduct a professional review and assessment of actions taken" by the agency, Wood said at the time.
The city received Dekmar's findings on the same day that maintenance worker Ryan Brunn avoided trial and the death penalty in the brutal murder of 7-year-old Jorelys as part of an extraordinary plea agreement that included a detailed confession, a guilty plea and a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
Attempts to reach Chief Jeff Lance have been unsuccessful.
"If there's issues or problems out there that we did, we'll make adjustments," Lance told Canton-Sixes Patch on Dec. 16. "We'll fix those problems. We're open-minded. We're not close-minded in anything that we do here."
Stay tuned to Canton-Sixes Patch for updates throughout the day.