THOMASVILLE -- Four narcotics/vice agents suspended Friday were to return to work this morning.

Guy Winkelmann, commander of the Thomas County/Thomasville Narcotics/Vice Division, will not be back today, said Thomas County Sheriff Carlton Powell.

The division was shut down about noon Friday. Lowndes County Sheriff's department officers began an audit of the agency at that time and continued the process Monday.

"They had found nothing illegal or unlawful in the way the drug squad was being run," Powell said about a verbal report the officer gave him early Monday afternoon.

A written report containing findings and recommendations will follow.

Powell said the commander will not return now "because he is responsible for procedures and operation of the squad."

Powell, Winkelmann's commanding officer, said he will wait until he has the full evaluation "to see what would be our next logical step."

He wants to have the full report in hand before deciding a direction to take.

The sheriff was to give agents instructions Monday afternoon. The officers will report to Lt. Tim Watkins, sheriff's department chief investigator, and Capt. Troy Rich, head of the Thomasville Police Department Criminal Investigations Division.

Agents and the commander underwent urinalyses when the agency was shut down Friday.

"Everything was negative," Powell said. "There was no fault found. Everything was good in that respect."

Lowndes officers, in reviewing the sheriff's department standard operating procedure, will make recommendations to result in more effective and efficient procedures for the future.

"They found nothing wrong in what they've checked out so far," Powell explained.

On Saturday, Powell said he "had some concerns about some areas" and thought it was time "to clear the air."

About mid-day Friday, he learned Lowndes officers were en route to Thomasville and locked down the narcotics/vice division Jail-Justice Center office, evidence and division vehicles.

He said an audit is the only way to ensure procedures are in place.

Ashley Paulk, Lowndes County sheriff, said Monday Lowndes officers conducting the audit work in his agency's evidence division.

Paulk said Powell asked for assistance in determining how evidence, seized money and contraband are stored for cases.

Interstate-75 traverses Lowndes County, resulting in a lot of traffic stops and seizures of drugs, money, vehicles and firearms. "We handle quite a few every day," Paulk explained.

"We have some people who are very well-trained in that,"the 12-year Lowndes sheriff said about his officers conducting the audit here.

Written recommendations might be available by the end of next week, Paulk said.

The Lowndes agency is not charging Thomas County for conducting the audit.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 220.

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