Lilburn cop avoids prison for drug theft from evidence room

A Lilburn police officer who resigned last year after confiscated drugs were found missing from the evidence room has been sentenced to probation under a law that allows the conviction to disappear, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Kim Banks, a 15-year-veteran of the department, was sentenced to three years probation under the state First Offender Act. Banks resigned Feb. 10, 2014. The act allows the conviction to be voided if she meets sentencing requirements.

“It was just a possession case — she had a very small number of pills in her purse,” said Rich Vandiver, the Gwinnett prosecutor assigned the case. “This is right in line with what all these cases carry. It is not a shock to my conscience.”

Banks, a senior investigator who supervised the evidence room, was allowed to stay on the job for more than a year after colleagues say she exhibited slurred speech, odd behavior and a disregard for basic police procedures.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last year that it wasn't until a fellow officer told a supervisor he believed Banks was stealing drugs that Lilburn Police Chief Bruce Hedley took Banks off the streets and notified the Gwinnett District Attorney Office.

Police records showed the DA investigators found several cases with missing drug evidence, The AJC reported.

Hedley then declined to discuss Banks’ case. But in a written statement he said, “I would never knowingly allow an employee to remain in an active sworn position unless they were determined to be fit for duty.”

District Attorney Danny Porter negotiated the plea agreement, Vandiver said. Banks had faced a maximum of three years imprisonment for possession of a prescription drug and five years maximum for the more serious charge of violation of oath of office, he said.

Banks was not charged in the other cases of missing drug evidence reported on last March, Vandiver said. The violation of oath of office was tied to the pill possession in the indictment. The misdemeanor theft charge was dropped.

“I know there were lots of things she was suspected of but she was only charged with these pills,”Vandiver said.

The department finally moved against Banks after an officer assigned to the department’s evidence unit discovered irregularities in prescription drug evidence on Feb. 7, 2014 and notified Hedley. Banks, who blamed sloppy police work for possessing pills on Carisoprodol, a muscle relaxant, resigned three days later.

Banks’ supervisors first questioned whether she was capable of doing her job in March 2013, personnel records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under state open records laws show. Records show her showing up disheveled and incoherent to investigate a police shooting of a shoplifter.

In May that year records show that evidence technician Ron Jones, whom Banks supervised, suspected her of stealing generic Xanax from the department’s evidence room but said he didn’t immediately report his concerns.

Chief Hedley put Banks on an “improvement plan” with closer supervision, which she completed in July 2013, The AJC reported. But by the end of 2013, Hedley wrote in a memo he had “great concern” for Banks’ well being and questioned if she was “fully capable of performing the duties of Senior Investigator.”