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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous says what started as a response to a citizen complaint turned into an embarrassment and a mess.

Evangelous says mistakes and failures in judgement by officers during a prostitution sting last year has led to changes for his department. He says the changes were coming, but they happened officially today nearly a year after the incident he says officers tried to cover up for months.

"The code of silence in law enforcement is a misguided theory of how to protect the organization," Evangelous said during an afternoon news conference at WPD headquarters. "We are dealing with this is in this case."

Watch Chief Evangelous's full news conference

Evangelous says the code of silence lasted until December when an officer with direct knowledge of what really happened during a prostitution sting last March finally came forward. It led to an internal affairs review. The department demoted two officers and suspended another in the past month as a result, the chief said. "They embarrassed us," Evangelous said he told the officers involved. "They embarrassed the organization. They embarrassed themselves." Evangelous would not name the officers, but WPD records show the department demoted Sgt. J.P. Fitzgerald to corporal last month and transferred him from Special Operations to Patrol. He is resigning effective Friday. The department suspended Sgt. William Richards for a week last month and transferred him as well. And just last week Cpl. Andy Lazzaro was demoted to officer.

A WPD spokeswoman says until today, narcotics was part of the Special Operations Division and that all three officers were part of narcotics in March 2012. Evangelous would not give many specifics about the investigation citing personnel laws. But he did admit one officer consumed too much alcohol during the undercover sting that involved advertised escorts coming to an RV.

Police cited three women in the operation, but later voided two of the tickets. The chief would not say why. He did say a video recorder used in the operation was reported lost months later and has never been found.

In all Evangelous said there were failures in procedure and a total failure in supervision, but nothing that happened was criminal. Still, he admits what happened will take a toll on the community's faith in his department. "If I have to supervise the damn thing myself, then I will, but I'm here to tell you that it's not gonna happen again," Evangelous said. "If I can't count on my staff to take care of business for me, then I'll go out and do it myself."

Evangelous said plans to move the narcotics unit to the criminal investigation division went into effect today ahead of schedule. The chief described the supervision of the operation in question as "incompetent," but he would not say who supervised the sting. We asked the chief if he will ask City Council to use a state law allowing him to release normally protected personnel information to maintain the integrity of the department. He said he'd have to talk with the city attorney first.

Comment on this Story

  • nofaithnlaw

    Exactly! How many have they done this to.

  • Nurse

    If the lieutenant is doing all those things, internal affairs should be checking on her or maybe training and standards should make a return trip to the area to check the department. It worked for Leland.

    Recently an officer was arrested in Orlando for clocking in to work contracts but not showing up to them. He was charged with grand theft. But doing that here in Wilmington seems to be no big deal.

    Do a search for ‘Officer falsely claimed working extra hours’ and you will see how a professional department deals with internal criminals. They released all information and took criminal action.

  • Watta Joke

    The destruction of one of the recording devices and the officers voice heard on the other device stating how it needs to go away doesn’t have anything to do with this issue? Not only is that obstruction of justice, it is also destruction of city property. The deception that was shown when the polygraph was administered to that same officer has nothing to do with this issue?

    The lieutenant that doesn’t follow policy and protocols, is accused of creating a hostile work environment, she has admitted in court to cutting tires, firing her duty weapon at another officer while both were on-duty and in full uniform, she allegedly stabbed her husband and then claimed it was because he startled her, the former sergeant that falsified his time card and is still on the force all have to do with this issue. The issue is officers that break not only policy but commit crimes and are allowed to continue to work.

    If you shot at one of your co-workers, do you think you would just get a suspension or do you think you would be charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill? If you willfully destroyed company property, would the company allow you to stay there or could there be a vandalism charge? If you clocked in but didn’t actually work, would your company keep you on the payroll or might you get charged with either theft by employee or embezzlement? But since they are officers, it seems a different set of rules apply to them.

  • Guest 0000

    Ok, “watta”, you’re obviously very, very familiar with the inner workings. All of your complaints have nothing to do with this issue though.
    E gave a pretty clear focus as to what he’s doing, and going to do. From his briefing, the issue was hidden for so many months, a supervisor found out about it (I call BS on that one), and informed the proper channels, therefore E. He explained that he was made aware in Dec, conducted an investigation, INFORMED THE MEDIA, and even though NO LAWS WERE BROKEN, punished those whose performance wasn’t correct.

    Pretty simple. There is no hidden society, no good old boy crud, just a problem resolved, WITH THE PUBLIC INFORMED.

    This is crazy, give the guy a chance to run his department and correct an issue. He’s doing a good, open job of it so far, nothing hidden.

  • Lewis

    I would not have wasted my time demoting people they would have the choice of being fired or putting in their resignation papers effective immediately. When you were the badge and take that oath, it’s that oath that says something. When you have breached the trust of the people you have sworn to serve and protect then it’s truly time for you to choose another line of work. The supervisor of the department wouldn’t been given a choice she would have been terminated because how can you call yourself a supervisor when you didn’t know what was going on in your own department. That says a lot about your management skills. Then to cover your backside you go to Internal Affairs as if you had nothing to do with it. Your Division, your mess. Apparently the chief must have promoted someone and put them in a position of leadership that they weren’t ready to accept. This is truly a blackeye for the WPD.

  • Whatisthetruth

    This is far from over. Evangelous danced around the facts. That much $$ spent on a hooker operation? The Lt didn’t realize that for 9 months? WPD is tainted. Watch the truth continue to come out and the tangled web unravel. The media is smelling blood evident by the questions asked at the press conference. Well at least most of them. One silly reporter asking the Chief if he could turn off the cameras and speak privately would he say something different? What a Putz. Heist have been planted by the WPD to ask soft questions. Don’t know who he was or what tv station he worked for, but his love fest was a joke.

  • KoolMoeDee

    How many innocent people are now either convicted and/or incarcerated because of the “code of silence” ? One? One Hundred?

    No one will ever know. Why? To tell would violate the “code of silence”.

  • Wilmington Observer

    I have the upmost respect and admiration for Chief Evangelous and the manner in which he leads the WPD. He seems to be a soft spoken, highly educated man with high moral convictions. Though I do not work for him, I have learned, from those who do, he has high expectations for his officers and is quick to recognize those officers who, consistently, preform as expected. When unfortunate situations, such as this, arise he seems to be just as fair and just in his actions. The head of any law enforcement agency will certainly never be able to lead without some segment of society being unhappy. Chief Evangelous dealt with this issue in a manner which will prevent future repetition. The agency, and the public which it serves, can continue on knowing that the best man, for the job, is keeping watch over those sworn to keep watch over us.

    Wilmington Observer

  • SurfCityTom

    Chuck Norris do a movie “Code of Silence”? Maybe they could do a sequel in Wilmington. Set it up properly, there would be all of the tax incentives as well as EB-5 foriegn investor money.

  • Watta Joke

    Now that this info is starting to come to light, maybe chief will answer about the deception shown on the polygraph by one of the officers when he was asked about the missing recorder. Maybe chief will also answer why the officers voice is heard on the other recorder talking about how the other one needed to go away.

    Maybe chief will answer why the Lt. in charge of training/hiring currently has a complaint filed against her for creating a hostile work environment. The sergeant that was in that office filed a complaint and he was put out on patrol.

    Maybe chief will answer why that same Lt. disregarded protocol when an applicant is found to be untruthful and is not recommended to be hired by the interview board, yet the same Lt. set up a different board because the applicant was a friend of hers.

    Maybe chief will answer why that same Lt. was allowed to practice age discrimination when an officer requested to go to a school and she told him he was to old to attend when there is no age limit on the class.

    Maybe chief will answer about the former sergeant that was caught falsifying his time card was only demoted yet allowed to stay on the force after committing not only a policy violation but a crime.

    Maybe chief will answer about the former employees that were caught tipping off drug dealers about pending search warrants.

    Do a google search on the phrase “Wilmington Police probe officers affair” and look for the scanned newspaper to get the name of the female officer that is now a Lt.

  • Guest1948

    The WPD has always been a “good ol’ boy” fraternity for as long as I can remember. ‘Code of Silence’ is an apt title for this article. I had hoped Chief Evangelous would clean up the department and it appears he has done a good job so far. Lets give him a change to rectify what has been uncovered and set forth new policies.

  • Beach Bum

    To the officer who dropped the dime….

    Hope it was worth it….

    Could be a long time till someone gets to you when you are calling for help…

  • Guest285

    This comment is the personification of the “code of silence” and protecting the “thin blue line”. As a police officer who has worked in a corrupt organization and has tried to toe the line and do the right thing and paid the ultimate sacrifice for it, it is this mentality that we protect our “brother officers” no matter how corrupt, wrong or immoral they may be because it is “us against them”. There is no way we can ever better ourselves in the law enforcement career field if we don’t stop making excuses and start doing what is ethically and morally right. The ends don’t justify the means and, no matter how bad criminals get, we need to be above it. But we continue to allow bullies like this poster to threaten officers who want to do right, intimidate them to keep quiet and continue to never fix ourselves.
    But the career field is also to blame. We put almost unrealistic expectations on the police to work long hours for low pay, run to danger when others run away and expose them to a culture that most of us can avoid. Added to that “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” by officers and the public, internal pressures and politics, and you have a recipe for disaster. I know many of the officers that have been swept up in this and they were once exceptional officers that knew right from wrong and had a moral compass. But they are products of this environment – I’m sure many, at some point, saw problems and wanted to stop it but thugs like this poster probably convinced them to keep quiet. And as they got in deeper, it was too late.
    I think this is the perfect time for Chief Evangelous to show the leader that he is, fix this and the many other issues that exist – and, unfortunately, there are many – and set the tone in this department.

  • Guest1946

    And some wonder why respect for law enforcement is at an all time low. Absolutely no professionalism anymore. The police are more like Nazis than a force to protect and serve.

  • hard worker

    Its no honesty in this department i have been charged for resist delay and obstruct and i was never under arrest anything i called the sargent to come on the scene for someone else and the officer got mad and made a whole charge that was false on me the sargent let it happen i askedhim to look at the tape he claim he would still haven’t heard from him yet and am missing days off work for their lies and crookness its sad you can’t even trust the system something needs to be done point blank

  • Brian Flucker

    Rude and inaccurate comments will not help or change anything. Do you really think the police are like Nazi’s? If so you don’t know what a Nazi was, nor do you realize that while a small handful of police may be corrupt, most of them are good people trying to make a positive difference.

  • Guesttenheimer

    I’ve never had any problems with the police in this area. As a matter of fact, they’ve been very helpful at times.

    With that fat chip sitting on your shoulder, it’s obvious you’ve had a “few problems” though!

  • whatisthetruth

    Why didn’t the Wilmington Police Dept and Chief Evangelous not discipline the Lt (won’t mention her name)but give a week off to one Sgt. and demote a second Sgt. How for almost 9 months did the Lt. not realize the money from the case was missing? The video equipment was missing? Did she not keep up with the money spent in her unit? did she not keep up with the inventory in her unit? So many people are being punished but she comes out clean. Many others at WPD have been busted down for less. This aint over.

  • truthseeker

    I am with the other submitter as to why only the peons were punished and no one higher than a Sgt.. If you are with someone who commits a bank robbery and you drive the car but never entered the bank you get the same charges. How can surveillance equipment go missing for months and there is no accountability? Also, the Chief stammered, lost his thought and completely stumbled through his prepared comments. Every year it is something with police. Highway Patrol and their antics with arrest and solicitation of women. Sheriff’s offices in this county and surrouding counties with jail staff. It never ends with police and never will. I have in the past stated there needs to be civilian review boards. How can the police, police themselves when they cannot be trusted. I mean civilian review boards of regular ordinary joes and sallys and not politically or law enforcement related.

  • Guest209

    Some of these comments are as if no other workplace has the same problems, they just aren’t in the news like the police. It doesn’t make what they did right, but don’t sound all offended like this would never happen anywhere else. Co-workers cover for each other in every profession, not just law enforcement.

  • Guest Reply

    Chief Evangelous sounded like he had a couple of shots prior to this event.
    Was a matter of time before the wishy washy tactics of law officers within this coastal area landed in Wilmington.
    Evangelous sounded like his resignation may be a possibility with “Major Changes” about to occur within the department, as he mentioned…and he’s a major player in the dept. and responsible.
    Undoubtedly…there’s people within the department that need to be let go.
    Hell…this is right off a TV Cop show!
    Shame on THEM! (The Chief Agreed)
    Stay Tuned!!!!

  • Citizen of the Republic

    “They embarrassed us,” Evangelous said he told the officers involved. “They embarrassed the organization. They embarrassed themselves.”

    I think the Chief is the best we’ve had in awhile.

    The mistakes made by some officers has opened up the department to ridicule. The operation definitely could have been run better.

    But, he’s done a very good job, and has come clean with the facts. He has to be given credit for that.

    Hopefully he means what he said, and it will make the department better for the public.

    I still don’t like the decision to hold back the specific details about officers involved. So we will watch closely in the future.

    If given the chance, I believe the department will be better. If not, it may mean his future as Chief will be toast.

  • GuestsRBest

    Sounds like ya’ll need to dedicate a single reporter to follow police corruption in NH County. Last week…Leland. This week…WPD. Next week…likely Wrightsville Beach.

    p.s. How about an expose on how many cameras/tapes have “gone missing” or been “out for repair” during arrests over there at Paranoia Beach. Those two demoted cops from last year could probably give you a few leads. And with the new body cameras, their 15 minutes of hothead rambo fame aint over.

  • Guest1

    looks like alot of complainers who “didn’t do anything” who want to rant.

    1. if you got arrested, you did something wrong. it’s not just the police who who believe it, its a magistrate who issues a warrant, a prosecuting attorney who agrees to go forward with a charge, and a judge who doesnt dismiss a case.

    2. it’s always the people who cry about the police who are the first to call and ask for help.

    here’s an idea, if you dont want tickets or get arrested, quit doing stupid stuff.

  • Guest Reply

    “2. it’s always the people who cry about the police who are the first to call and ask for help.

    here’s an idea, if you dont want tickets or get arrested, quit doing stupid stuff.”….(Unquote)

    Does your message go out to the Police Chief and the undercover officers as well in this case…Guest1????

  • GuestyTesty

    Why is there always the argument that negative comments only come from criminals or bitter speed demons with an ax to grind? It’s kind of like the worn out argument that you should open up your door, automobile, or person to warrantless searches…because after all, “only those with something to hide would have a problem with it”. I guess you figure it’s only the ones that are at the business end of handcuffs that would question law enforcement tactics.

    I’ve never been arrested. OK, so yes, I got one (well-deserved) speeding ticket at the age of 19…about 20 years ago. Did you ever stop to think that those of us that have witnessed police corruption in the courtroom could have been there as the jury pool or spectators? Not everyone in the courtroom is an attorney or defendant. There are those that volunteer as courtroom monitors to witness the outcomes of drunk driving cases, domestic violence, etc. Likewise, not everyone that has witnessed police brutality was at the other end of the billyclub or tazer.

    Some cops lie. Some judges and prosecutors look the other way even when the lie is blatant and has irrefutable evidence to the contrary. It happens, and it happens more than just occasionally. The ‘code of silence’ that the Chief speaks of runs deep and doesn’t stop with the badge. If you’d like to see for yourself, how about not trying to get out of jury duty next time your called. Or take a day or two unprompted and go down and watch a trial yourself. Don’t just pick the high profile cases; check out the Joe Shmoe cases where nobody is watching. You know, they are in the business of closing cases. Sadly, some don’t care if the crime and the perp match.

    So don’t assume us to be criminals because we aren’t down with corruption. And we won’t automatically assume you as the wife or mother of a LEO.

  • cait

    You’d be shocked at how many officers are corrupt. Some ppl can’t handle authority and let it go to their heads. The sad part is we teach our kids to go to an officer in an emergency. It isn’t just in NH or Brunswick counties, it is country wide. It isn’t just in law enforcement, it is in almost every organization that there is. Priests aren’t supposed to be having sex with little boys, teachers are supposed to be having affairs with teenagers, police aren’t supposed to be stalking women, raping them. The world has “dirty” people and there is no reason to try and sugar coat it. Corruption has always existed and always will.

  • B M

    any good cop that knows of a corrupt cop and fails to have him or her removed and their certifications stripped are just as bad as the corrupt one, if their is a code of silence then the general public will never have any confidence in their police force

  • Guest123234

    Wrong. Correct answer is some of them are good people trying to make a difference. Most are corrupt!! You just hear about the one that get caught.

  • Guest465

    Easier said than done – it took over 2 years to remove DellaPia, Kozak, Smith, Landon, and Blasingame out of the career field (Jayne’s selling cars in Charlotte but he should have been stripped as well of his certification). They spent years destroying the Leland Police Department for their own personal gains, removing – and assaulting – anyone that stood in their way. What about those that tried to remove the corrupt cops, where are they? Taking lower paying jobs, out of police work because they “broke the code of silence” or trying to remove the stench of Leland Corruption that has been wrongfully associated with them. Much easier said than done!

  • Guesttenheimer

    …your communication skills? Nahhhhhhhhhh…

  • perhaps you must be one of the crooked cops

    My communication was fine. I handled it like i should have but i see it does no good to talk to any of the crooked cops in the system cause at the end of the day its a code of silence so for you to make a response like that you must be a crooked cop or kin to one.But its all good cause one thing this is showing you reep what you sow and they will have their day. Oh and by the way i was never arrested.

  • Trying to follow ….

    Even though it took me a minute to decipher your post you do clearly say that you were “charged” with resisting arrest but then later you say “by the way I was never charged with anything”……which is it?

    You say it’s “all good” but is it really? I’m worried that maybe you’re confusing the fact that you had to make bond and appear in court and get a lawyer (taking a stab here but I bet he/she was appointed). Anyway its just not “all good” when you almost get arrested or almost charged or could’ve been almost arrested and charged or what ever you were trying to say happened that day…..

  • Vog46

    Ok so the big “E” got mad and embarrassed. He made all the right moves, struck all the right poses and said all the right things.
    This is the guy that just a month ago went before council and GOT hundreds of thousands of dollars for a specific task force that will observe profile and entrap criminals who are suspected of being repeat offenders.

    Yet they can’t keep officers sober during a prostitution sting? Can’t keep track of camera’s?
    This is a disaster on so many levels. Why was the code of silence so pervasive? Why wouldn’t ordinary cops come forward to tell what happened? THIS is the real tragedy here. This affects the entire department. The next time something happens (as it will inevitably) people will rightfully ask “Are we sure we’re at the bottom of this”. This has tainted the department – from traffic cop to K-9 officer, from lowly “officer” to Chief.

    I don’t know what advice to give them


  • straightshooter

    Bad news E- a police department that in past has been racist, very political and overbearing. Many Honest cops here- but some have croseed the line- targeting folks for the wrong reasons–the corruptiopn goes beyond Narcotics—it isnt recent and it goes beyond this immediate issue- if SBI wont investiagte lets get the feds and clean out the cesspool

  • guesty

    Nobody here has said no other workplace doesn’t have problems. But when it is the police department where the officers can make a permanent mark on a persons life, it is different. If Joe the trash truck driver skips a can and his coworker lies and says “Yes, we got all the cans” the only thing harmed is somebody will have a full stinky can for an extra week. If an officer lies about what happened, a person can lose their freedom.

  • Beach Bum

    Guest 285…

    You know where “whistle blowers” or “dime droppers” find themselves?


    Then out…


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