ALBEMARLE — A contract between the City of Albemarle and U.S. Investigative Security Services Agency (ISS), obtained by Stanly County Journal through a public records request, reveals a narrow window between the completion of the ISS audit of the Albemarle Police Department and the announcement of Chief David Dulin’s retirement and hiring of a new interim chief, David Poston.
ISS, based out of Huntersville, offers services that include internal affairs audits of law enforcement agencies. Both the original contract and final report of this audit were obtained by SCJ.
The contract was signed April 29, 2021, by city manager Michael Ferris and by David Stephens, director of operations for ISS, with services to commence on May 4 at $150 per hour for each investigator involved.
“The City agrees to employ ISS to provide review/auditing services to conduct an independent review of current Albemarle Police Department Internal Affairs complaint and investigative processes,” the contract stated.
It later stated that after this review was completed, a report would be provided “with all of their findings as relates to the audit as well as any applicable policy change recommendations or improvements for best practices.”
ISS submitted that final report on May 18, and three weeks later, on June 9, the city announced Dulin’s departure and that an interim chief had already been hired. The fact that Poston’s employment was already secured by the June 9 retirement announcement suggests a narrow window between the ISS report’s completion and the search for Dulin’s interim replacement.
“The city routinely reviews each department’s policies, procedures and operations in an effort to improve the services offered,” Albemarle city attorney Britt Burch told SCJ on the reason for the audit. “This same type of review was conducted within the APD.”
Many of the findings in the final report provided to SCJ were redacted.
“Pursuant to North Carolina General Statute §160A-168, the report has been redacted to protect the privacy of employee personnel matters,” Burch told SCJ in an email. “It is important to note that the report did not uncover any corruption.”
The report contained sections on pursuits, citizen complaints, internal complaints and use of force. The review was completed by ISS investigators Katherine Scheimreif and David Stephens. They interviewed “several members” of the APD, including Dulin, but the results were redacted to an extent where it was unclear whether the findings were of a positive or negative nature, often with entire pages blacked out.
- “The Albemarle Police Department’s Internal Affairs process is currently [extended redaction]. As a basic foundation, this policy specifies that ‘minor’ complaints are handled [redacted] who encounter a citizen complaint such as ‘rudeness’, are permitted by policy to attempt to handle the complaint without any documentation.
- “Most cases that were reviewed by ISS revealed [extended redaction].”
- “As an additional example of inappropriate adjudication and punishment [extended redaction].”
While ambiguous due to another redaction, the section giving policy recommendations seemed to suggest the APD’s policies were sufficient, but not always their application.
“In closing, the policies presented by the Albemarle Police Department are adequate but must be utilized and properly applied [extended redaction].”
Burch was clear, though, that “the report did not uncover any corruption,” and that Dulin himself made the decision to retire.
“As I am sure you are aware, the city is legally restricted on what it can disclose about personnel matters. We cannot offer additional insight on discussions that took place prior to David Dulin’s retirement,” Burch said.
She did suggest that a discussion was had with Dulin after the audit, saying, “As standard practice, findings from a departmental review are discussed with the leadership of the department.”
Burch also made sure to highlight that the city council has no direct role in hiring or firing chiefs of police, a point also made to SCJ by Mayor Ronnie Michael in a phone interview.
“The city manager has supervisory authority over all department heads and has the sole authority over personnel actions for the same,” Burch said. “In any event, Chief Dulin made the decision to retire.”
SCJ reached out to Dulin for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.