Canton police chief resigns amid report saying department violated procedures


CANTON, Ga.,None - Canton police Chief Jeff Lance resigned on Thursday, hours after an investigative report was released saying his department violated its own policies while searching for a missing Canton girl.

On Friday, Channel 2's Aaron Diamant obtained a copy of the report into the police response in the disappearance and murder of 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera. She was found dead in a Dumpster in early December. A 20-year-old maintenance man at her apartment complex admitted to luring her into a vacant apartment and beating her to death.

Canton City Manager Scott Wood received and approved Lance's letter of resignation, which cited a desire to "pursue other career options," as the reason for his resignation.

"The community should not be fairly judged by this one aberration, nor should the police department be judged simply by this set of circumstances," Wood said.

After authorities came under fire during the search, the city hired an outside auditor, LaGrange Police Chief Louis Dekmar, who spent weeks interviewing nearly two dozen people from a half dozen different agencies. His report blasts Lance for a series of bad decisions and bad calls that hampered search efforts.

The report concludes that the initial search for Jorelys was conducted with the mindset that she was probably a runaway. Dekmar called it a prevailing attitude that violated departmental policy.


"There was a clear absence of leadership by the agency head predicated by the assumption that this was a routine runaway or missing child, and that she would turn up," Dekmar wrote.

Dekmar found that once Lance was notified Jorelys was missing, he failed to act in a way that would bring in all available resources and communicate a sense of urgency. No command staff from the Canton Police Department arrived at the scene until the morning after Jorelys disappeared.

The report says Canton police should have called in specialists from the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation much sooner.

Canton named Deputy Chief Todd Vande Zande as the interim police chief as the city searches for Lance's replacement.

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