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8News Investigates: Do Police Agencies Comply With Drug Destruction Laws?

Young Broadcasting of Richmond, WorldNow and WRIC, ABC 8News,

Richmond, VA

Richmond, VA—Virginia law requires illegal drugs and paraphernalia seized by law enforcement officials to be destroyed. But after several officers were caught dealing drugs out of a Henry County evidence room a few years back, local lawmakers are calling for the policies to be reviewed.

"I trust all our law enforcement agencies are doing the right thing, but we have had bad experiences in the past," said Sen. Donald McEachin.

Sen. McEachin is referring to the arrest and indictment of the Henry County Sheriff and several deputies in 2006, after an investigation revealed that they were selling cocaine, marijuana, and even guns from our of the evidence room.

U.S. Attorney John Brownlee weighed in, "Essentially these were drugs and guns seized and stolen from the property room and put back on the street."

To protect against seized drugs returning to the streets, Virginia law says drugs and drug paraphernalia taken in by law enforcement officials are to be destroyed. But the concern is that all of the agencies aren't properly disposing of their seized narcotics.

Louisa County shared with us photographic evidence showing how they destroy evidence after its no longer needed: they dump the drugs into a large hole in a landfill, and light it on fire.

But our investigation revealed that very few law enforcement agencies—including Chesterfield County Police—are fully compliant with the law.

Chesterfield residents like Mary Mann are horrified by this news. "I believe the police and courts should be obeying the law, and if they're not obeying the law I want to know why," said Mary.

We contacted Chesterfield County Police, who told us in a written statement that their failure to comply with the law is "inadvertent," and after learning from us of the problem, they "immediately took steps to address the issue and come into compliance with the statute."

Chesterfield Police are far from alone. After investigating, we found that only 26 of Virginia's nearly 300 law enforcement agencies filed any drug destruction reports with the Board of Pharmacy in 2011. As of mid-November 2012, only 19 complied.

Every other Virginia law enforcement agency we contacted told us they were unaware of the law requiring them to report to the state how they were destroying their seized drugs.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Bobby Hawkins told us, ""it surprised me today to find out that we're not complying with state law," and said it's an issue the department will address.

Sen. McEachin was disheartened by our reports. "I don't know what the disconnect is, but it's disappointing that our law enforcement agencies seem to have overlooked this," he said.

Stay with 8News for updates.

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