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 , 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 , a new report has found deficiencies in the way the 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, .

The  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 . 

That team joined the search at 7 a.m. Dec. 5. Within hours, authorities  in a Dumpster from the apartment. An autopsy found that she likely died 60 to 90 minutes after she disappeared. Jorelys had been , GBI director Vernon Keenan said during a Dec. 6 press conference.

The next day, law enforcement arrested , a 20-year-old River Ridge maintenance worker who'd recently moved to area from Dahlonega.

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  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," . "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.

hope January 20, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Within months of moving to Canton the arrogance and complacency of city officials hit us in the face like a left hook. From the Mayor…to the Police Chief…to the water department that closes down for a two hour lunch. Do you get a two hour lunch break at your job? I don’t. We have always said it would take tragedy to change the way things are handled in the City of Canton. We never imagined it would be something THIS tragic. Jeff Lance took the time to turn on/watch a UGA football game while an innocent child lay dead in a garbage compactor. Did he take a minute to update his Facebook status as well? What arrogance and disrespect. He should hang his head in shame. As far as the rest of the City government…it’s time to wake up and do the job you are paid to do. You are public servants. The residents and tax payers of Canton want to be served! Mayor Hobgood- I would prefer you keep your Burger King crown (which you proudly wore during First Friday) along with your giant ego at home. You’ve contributed to and allowed government complacency and arrogance way too long. Rest in peace baby girl. Maybe…just maybe…the loss of your life will result in a positive change.
Sharon Shy-Hanawalt January 20, 2012 at 09:58 PM
if your that miserable move! why stay in a city you have shown you do not like,, as far as watching the game, did you see him doing that with your own eyes or are you putting your blind faith & trust in the media??
Jason Deville January 21, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Sharon - a seven year old girl is dead. Don't forget what this is about, it's not about the media or the mayor. Wake up. How insincere of you to blast someone over trust in the media when this is about the LOSS OF A LIFE.
Jessica January 21, 2012 at 02:49 AM
I agree with you Hope! And why should unhappy residents move? WE fund these services and have a right to have high expectations from the people that are in these positions. RIP Jorelys
hope January 21, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Sharon, it's ironic you suggest I move. Those exact words were said to me in a City building, by a City employee who I questioned about policies and procedures (a City employee who should be thankful to have a job funded by tax payers like myself). Although we dream of the day we can move...if you haven't lived under a rock for the last 3 years...you know this isn't exactly the best time to sell your home. In the meantime, just because I'm unhappy here, doesn't mean I'm going to be silenced. I am a smart, well-educated woman who wants accountability and change in the City of Canton!


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