Sheriff’s Office says former deputy was charged with evidence tampering
A former Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy who was charged with official misconduct has entered a diversion agreement where he will pay $353 and perform community service.
In his agreement, Justin Price admitted that he destroyed evidence three or four times to ensure the outcome he promised to suspects of crimes.
Price — a four-year veteran of the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office — was charged with official misconduct in February after a December allegation, Sheriff Jeff Easter previously said. He is no longer employed by the department. The charge was a misdemeanor.
Price signed a diversion agreement on Thursday, saying he is guilty of the charges alleged in the case and the information presented is true.
The agreement states that Price was a patrol deputy on Dec. 17 when he and another deputy conducted a traffic stop in the 400 block of South Emerson Street, near Kellogg and Ridge.
Price arrested the driver on suspicion of driving on a suspended license, the agreement states. He then conducted a warrantless search of the vehicle after he found narcotics — an alprazolam pill — in the driver’s pack of cigarettes. He also found what he believed to be drug paraphernalia.
Price seized the drug evidence, as well as the driver’s brown handbag, which had two cellphones, a thumb drive, several hundred receipts, a Christmas card, a USB 120 plug and a glow-in-the-dark sex toy, the agreement states.
When the driver called the sheriff’s office after the traffic stop and asked for her belongings, Price denied taking her property and claimed to another deputy that the items were submitted into property and evidence in accordance with policy, the agreement states. The sheriff’s office then started an internal investigation, which Easter previously said was conducted by the Wichita Police Department.
Dashcam video of the traffic stop appears to show Price placing the driver’s bag and a separate evidence bag into his cruiser’s trunk, the agreement states. An investigator found the driver’s bag in the cruiser’s trunk four days after the traffic stop.
Price was the lead deputy and made the decisions during the stop, the agreement states. The other deputy on patrol with Price during the stop “confirmed the essential facts” of the driver’s complaint and said he did not handle her property or the drug evidence.
The driver told an investigator that Price had said to her that “because she’d be cooperative at the stop that he would destroy the evidence he’d collected and not charge her,” the agreement states. Price told the investigator that he made a deal with the driver while taking her to the Sedgwick County Jail that if “she provided information about her drug dealers, he would dispose of the evidence.”
Price admitted to the investigator that he destroyed evidence of a crime when he threw away the drugs and paraphernalia from the traffic stop and that his actions went against department policy, the agreement states.
The agreement states that Price acknowledged that “because he cannot give guarantees to suspects about how their cases are disposed of, destroying the evidence is one way to ensure the outcome he promised them ... over the course of his career as a sheriff’s deputy he has destroyed evidence three or four times.”
Easter previously said the case seemed to be “an isolated, one-time incident.”
Price said he remembered taking the driver’s handbag, but investigators said he did not have an answer for why he took it or why he left it in the cruiser after destroying the other evidence, the agreement states.
Price’s employment with the department ended a couple of weeks before he was charged, Easter has said.
He must perform 60 hours of community service and pay $160 in court costs, a $160 diversion cost and a $33 jail processing fee. If he follows the yearlong diversion agreement, the district attorney’s office will not prosecute him. The complaint would be dismissed, and his diversion could be expunged.