January 12, 2005
The Scottsdale Police Department has begun reducing the amount of blood, drugs and firearms held as evidence in its storage facilities, Chief Alan Rodbell said Tuesday.
The efforts come in response to a city audit, released in December, that found systemic failures within management of the police department’s evidence property room and off-site storage lockers.
Some items had been held years after the cases they were associated with closed. In addition, the department was renting storage lockers that were not secured that exposed evidence to extreme heat in the summer, according to internal police department inspections and City Auditor Cheryl Barcala’s report.
Rodbell presented the audit committee, which is composed of three City Council members, with an update Tuesday of what the department is doing to complete a 29-point list of evidence-handling reforms.
Since July, more than 4,000 pieces of drug evidence have been burned and 218 weapons have been marked for disposal, Rodbell said. The department’s backlog of blood samples also has been destroyed.
While property room employees have identified weapons to destroy, they are waiting for the council to alter city code, Rodbell said. The code does not clearly designate how or when weapons should be disposed.
The audit report identified 2,300 firearms in storage.
In all, Barcala said she estimated the department is storing 120,000 pieces of evidence, many of which can legally be destroyed.
Each year, Scottsdale police collect about 2,000 pieces of evidence, said Steve Garrett, crime laboratory manager. On average the department disposes of or releases about half of the items it takes in.
A bar code system is being implemented that will create a database of all items in storage, Rodbell said.
Police officials are working with City Manager Jan Dolan to propose changes to the city code that will dictate how long evidence and other property should be stored.
A chicken-and-egg dispute arose between committee members as Councilman Wayne Ecton argued the City Council to refrain from altering the city code until the department institutes its own reforms.
"I don’t think we should be telling you to do this one way or another," Ecton said. "We’re not here to run the police department."
Councilmen Bob Littlefield and Jim Lane argued the other way, saying the department should base its procedures on the council’s changes to city code.
Dolan said she was concerned a code could paint the department into a corner, with policies it could not maintain.