Audit: police have been retaining evidence

BYLINE: Matt Howerton

Grants, NM

No destruction, disposition orders for evidence obtained since 2010

GRANTS, N.M. — A new audit surrounding the Grants Police Department unveils some troubling problems with the department’s police operations.

The audit was ordered by the city of Grants, and a consulting office in Grants conducted the audit.

Inside the 16-page report, the consulting office found that there was a lack of leadership at the command level within the department, a lack of accountability and favoritism when it came to assignments, equipment and investigations of policy violations, as well as lack of training for officers both old and new.

The audit found that the schedules of officers on patrol didn’t correlate with calls for service and that there was no system to track officer misconduct complaints filed by the public.

The audit also found a lack of supervision and accountability within the evidence room, and suggests there hasn’t been a destruction or disposition order for evidence obtained since 2010. It said the practice of retaining found property and unneeded evidence for long periods should stop.

Newly appointed Police Chief Craig Vandiver has been on the job for a month. While the audit was conducted before the beginning of his administration, he said change is on the way.

“We’re already in the process of hiring a full time evidence custodian, and we start new shifts on Sunday so there are more officers out when they’re needed when the calls for service are at their highest,” said Vandiver.

The audit recommends the department not handle any major investigations because Grants police doesn’t have a crime scene team. Vandiver said the department will request assistance from either the State Police or the FBI from now on until he can train his own officers.

The only problem he’s worried about is if a crime scene can’t come out to him right away.

“We don’t think it will be a serious issue. We will just guard the crime scene until the team can arrive,” Vandiver said.

For Vandiver, the audit is tough to read. He says a lot of the problems inside the audit are ones he saw when he arrived and can be attributed to budget or staffing issues.

“We’re about 10-15 years behind from where we want to be right now,” he said, adding he expects the department to be up to par within the next year.

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