Audit reports call for expanded controls on Springfield Police evidence room after alleged theft of nearly $400,000

The Republican, MassLive LLC, masslive.com
BYLINE: Peter Goonan |
Link to Document: City review of Springfield police seized cash procedures
Link to Document: Marcum Advisory Group Report

Springfield, MA

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1 / 17 Retired Springfield Police Officer Kevin Burnham, right, arrives in court with defense attorney Charles Dolan in Hampden Superior Court on Monday afternoon in Springfield. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

SPRINGFIELD -- Two audit reports have recommended the city's Police Department take numerous steps to safeguard thousands of dollars of seized cash and narcotics evidence in the aftermath of the criminal indictments of former police officer Kevin Burnham, who is accused of stealing nearly $400,000 that went missing from the department's evidence room.

During a meeting Tuesday, the city's Director of Internal Audit, Yong Ju No, and representatives of Boston-based auditing consultant Marcum LLP presented their separate findings in audits of seized cash and narcotics evidence. The City Council Audit Committee, chaired by Timothy Rooke, accepted the reports, and councilors said they are pleased that safeguards are in progress.

While the city's audit focused on missing cash, Marcum LLP, also known as Marcum Advisory Group, stated in its report that all seized narcotics and drug evidence have been accounted for, with no incidents of theft or misuse detected in its audit.

The audits include recommendations to the Police Department to take the following steps, some of which are already in progress:

* Create a system for regularly depositing seized cash with a financial institution.

* Implement a computer program for monitoring and tracking seized cash and evidence.

* Ensure there are cameras to monitor all activity in the evidence room and cash seizures.

* Ensure there is direct supervision of the property room officer, and that no other officer can enter the evidence room without supervision.

The auditors and Police Commissioner John Barbieri said all the recommendations have been agreed upon by city officials and either have been implemented or are in the process of being implemented.

The city, in a response to the audit, said the Police Department has already begun depositing cash in a bank account and installing cameras, and is relying on armored car pickups for transferring the cash. In addition, the Springfield Police Department's budget director is reconciling all cash seized and deposited, the city states in its responses to the recommendations.

No and City Solicitor Edward M. Pikula said the city will monitor the department's implementation of the recommendations.

The city announced in May that it was hiring Marcum LLP to analyze evidence linked to pending drug cases, with the cost for that private audit estimated at $170,000. Data available on the city's website shows $95,286.57 in payments to Marcum during the current fiscal year.

Burnham has pleaded not guilty to six counts of larceny over $250 and one count of larceny under $250 related to money missing from the Police Department evidence room.

No said he is "very confident" such a situation will not occur in the future, due to the implementation of the recommended safeguards.

"There is a policy in our department to ensure our recommendations have been implemented and that we will follow up within 12 months to test our recommendations," No said.

A discrepancy in seized cash was initially discovered by the Police Department and investigated by the state Attorney General's office, leading to the audits and Burnham's arrest, officials said.

The city's internal audit report states that, according to the Attorney General's office, Burnham "... allegedly replaced money he stole from various evidence envelopes with previously seized counterfeit money or with newer money that was put into circulation after the original seizure date."

No said the overall recommendation in his department's internal audit was "to have the seized cash being moved to a financial institution and that there be policies and procedures to account for the monies being held by the bank and there be appropriate oversight by the Police Department in terms of the records being used to record the seized cash as well as implementing a new software system to help expedite this process."

No said his office observed that cash is "physically stored" at the Police Department, and the audit included a review of seized cash associated with several hundred cases with arrest dates from calendar years 2010 to 2015. During that period, according to the report, the a total aggregate value of the cash passing through the narcotics room was $910,000 as of Sept. 30, 2015; the aggregate value of the cash passing through the property room, as of April 16, 2015, was $37,000.

The city audit office recommended that a computerized program be implemented to track seized cash, and that the system record "all pertinent information from its receipt to disposition." Marcum agreed, saying that a computerized system should be created to document all evidence received in the property room rather than the current manual system.

The city, in its response, said a computer system is being researched and a electronic spreadsheet will be set up in the meantime.

In response to recommendations from the city internal audit office and Marcum, Barbieri has assigned a full-time evidence room supervisor to oversee all property and evidence, and the supervisor and evidence officers are the only department personnel who have security code access to the evidence rooms, according to the city response.

The internal audit office stated that it was not provided records of any physical inventories of safes at the Police Department.

It has recommended that officers who have no ties to the evidence room personnel "conduct periodic scheduled and random physical inventories."

As recommended by Marcum, the city has agreed that its Internal Investigation Unit will conduct a yearly unannounced inspection of property storage areas. In addition, the Police Department will conduct an annual inventory.

Among recommendations being implemented, the Police Department has purchased a cash counter that detects counterfeit currency and a cash machine that scans each bill and records it.

Pikula said the city has a crime insurance policy, but said he is not sure if the losses will be covered and to what extent. The city has already paid out $75,000 to defendants related to the missing money, police officials said.

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said the internal and private audits were released by the city and Police Department "in full transparency and accountability."

"Again, I am greatly saddened, angered and shocked by the allegations of misconduct by a former employee of the Springfield Police Department," Sarno said in response to the audits. "I have full confidence that Commissioner Barbieri and his command staff have implemented robust checks and balances to make sure that this type of situation does not reoccur."

Sarno said he has "zero tolerance for anyone who betrays the public trust."

Councilors Kenneth Shea and Kateri Walsh attended the Audit Subcommittee meeting, and said they are pleased to hear that steps are being taken to address the issues related to seized cash and drug evidence.




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2 / 17 In this Republican file photo, then Springfield Police Officers Kevin Burnham, left, and Richard Soto, right, look over evidence from a Clark Street raid. The raid netted 1.3 kilos of cocaine, $22,000.00, and a unregistered Colt .45 semi-automatic.
 
 
 
 
 



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3 / 17 In this 2004 Republican file photo, then Detective Kevin M. Burnham shows marijuana and more than $360,000 in cash at the Springfield Police headquarters that was confiscated along with five guns in a drug bust.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



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4 / 17 Springfield, 7/25/02, Springfield Poilce Det. Kevin Burnham, the Narcotics Evidence Officer, with $85,064 in cash and a 380 cal. semi-automatic hand gun from a drug raid on Fresno St. The police got the cash, guns and 464 grams (1/2 a kilo) of crack and and cocaine.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



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5 / 17 Springfield, 11/20/01, Springfield Police Officer Kevin M. Burnham holding a very small, sampling of drugs from two drug raids in 2001 in Springfield. He is holding 7 oz. of uncut heroin and street level bags of marijuana.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



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6 / 17 Springfield, 11/20/01, Springfield Police Officer Kevin M. Burnham sorts a very small, sampling of drugs from two drug raids in 2001 in Springfield.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



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7 / 17 Springfield, 11/20/01, Springfield Police Officer Kevin M. Burnham holding a very small, sampling of drugs from two drug raids in 2001 in Springfield. He is holding 7 oz. of uncut heroin and street level bags of marijuana.
 
 
 
 
 



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8 / 17 Retired Springfield Police Officer Kevin Burnham stands in court behind defense attorney Charles Dolan in Hampden Superior Court on Monday afternoon in Springfield. (Dave Roback / The Republican)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



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9 / 17 Retired Springfield Police Officer Kevin Burnham sits in court behind State Assistant Attorney General James O' Brien and defense attorney Charles Dolan in Hampden Superior Court on Monday afternoon in Springfield. (Dave Roback / The Republican)
 
 
 
 
 
 



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10 / 17 Retired Springfield Police Officer Kevin Burnham sits in court behind State Assistant Attorney General James O' Brien in Hampden Superior Court on Monday afternoon in Springfield. (Dave Roback / The Republican)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



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11 / 17 Retired Springfield Police Officer Kevin Burnham sits in court behind State Assistant Attorney General James O' Brien and defense attorney Charles Dolan in Hampden Superior Court on Monday afternoon in Springfield. (Dave Roback / The Republican)
 
 
 
 
 



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12 / 17 Retired Springfield Police Officer Kevin Burnham stands in court behind defense attorney Charles Dolan in Hampden Superior Court on Monday afternoon in Springfield. (Dave Roback / The Republican)
 
 
 
 
 
 



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13 / 17 Superior Court Judge Constance Sweeney is seen on the bench during the proceeding of retired Springfield Police Officer Kevin Burnham in Hampden Superior Court on Monday afternoon. (Dave Roback / The Republican)
 
 
 
 
 



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14 / 17 Sprinhgfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno speaks during a press conference on the indictment against retired Springfield Police Officer Kevin Burnham at police headquarters on Monday afternoon. (Dave Roback / The Republican)
 
 
 
 
 



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15 / 17 Sprinhgfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri speaks during a press conference on the indictment against retired Springfield Police Officer Kevin Burnham at police headquarters on Monday afternoon. At left is Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno.
 
 
 
 
 



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16 / 17 Sprinhgfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri speaks during a press conference on the indictment against retired Springfield Police Officer Kevin Burnham at police headquarters on Monday afternoon. At left is Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno.
 
 
 
 
 



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17 / 17 Sprinhgfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri speaks during a press conference on the indictment against retired Springfield Police Officer Kevin Burnham at police headquarters on Monday afternoon. At left is Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno.
 
 
 
 
 

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