The firing of detective Brent Heavner has raised serious questions about the practices of the Lincolnton Police Department, the competency of its administration and the ability of the city’s leadership to hold its employees accountable.

Heavner was terminated for alleged “misconduct,” supposedly for sharing information about one of his investigations with someone who wasn’t authorized to hear that information. Heavner’s attorney claims, however, that the detective was fired to silence him from speaking out about a cover-up inside the police department. The city should open an investigation immediately. If the city lacks the ability, or the will or fortitude, to investigate those claims, an outside agency should be invited to look into Heavner’s claims.

Heavner’s primary duties at the LPD were investigating online sexual predators. Heavner would pose as a child or teenager online, lure men to Lincolnton with the promise of sex with an underage child and arrest them when they arrived in the city. So far, more than 50 men have been charged in the operation. Heavner’s firing raises questions about his credibility in those cases. The notion that more than 50 sexual predators could walk free should be enough to spur an outside investigation.

Heavner’s attorney says the alleged cover-up centers on information the detective discovered about a fellow LPD officer during an investigation. The attorney says Heavner shared that information with his superiors, expecting that they would share that information with the State Bureau of Investigation. When Heavner discovered more evidence related to that officer, “he was again silenced, culminating in his suspension and termination,” according to a statement from Heavner’s attorney.

It’s unclear, at this time, whether that information was related specifically to Heavner’s investigation of child sexual predators. What is clear, however, is that Heavner claims to have found evidence that a fellow Lincolnton police officer was engaged in some kind of wrongdoing. The city’s leadership, not surprisingly, is hiding behind calling the issue “a personnel matter.” But this situation appears to go far beyond a simple human resources issue. If the city is unable, or unwilling, to get to the bottom of Heavner’s claims, it’s time to find someone who can.

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