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DIGGING DEEPER: Beloit Police Department investigation turns up missing evidence, lack of training

BYLINE: Kristen Barbaresi

Beloit, WI

2016-01-22_Police Department lack of training_01
BELOIT (WKOW)-- The Beloit Police Department is undergoing an overhaul of policies and practices after an investigation turned up serious problems.

The city paid $130,000 for an independent investigation into the department, which turned up problems with everything from hiring practices to training to problems with investigations. It also led to the resignation of the chief and deputy chief.

Already the department is making changes, but there are some mistakes that cannot be fixed.

Interim Chief David Zibolski ordered the first documented audit of the Beloit Police Department evidence room in two decades. Zibolski says a commanding officer requested an audit in 2014, but department leadership denied the request.

The audit uncovered major problems, including missing evidence.

“There's five guns that we can't account for,” Zibolski said. “There's an amount of drugs we can't account for. They believe they were destroyed, but there's no documentation.”

Zibolski also says the department will miss out on upwards of $50,000 to $60,000 seized in drug cases that wasn't processed properly. That money will now have to be turned over to the county.

“That would have been money that the city of Beloit could have utilized for the agency if we'd followed proper process,” Zibolski said.

A new system is now in place, requiring all evidence to be scanned in and out, as well as a receipt system, required by law, to ensure a clear chain of custody.

“There's absolutely nothing we can do about past bad practice,” Zibolski said. “All we can do now is set the baseline which the audit has done.”

Zibolski says another area he acted on immediately was making sure officers were up to date with training and laws and statutes.

“One that was required that they weren't getting was strip search training, and that's mandated by statute that occurs annually,” Zibolski said. “They [officers] had not had that in a couple of years.”

Zibolski says he immediately ordered all strip searches to cease until officers were trained. According to the investigation, officers did ask for training, but department leadership would typically deny those requests.

Officers are now updated in number of areas including strip searches, domestic violence, human trafficking and sexual assault investigations.

“I couldn't honestly find the last time that they had received training of that type,” Zibolski said.

Zibolski says officers are also getting up to speed on lawful search and seizures. And the training is already working. he says officers recovered several guns during stops in the last month.

Zibolski says the errors could have legal ramifications. The department went case by case with the Rock County District Attorney and found none of evidence mistakes will impact cases.

As for the search for a new chief, Zibolski says he is applying for the job. He is also a finalist for the chief job in Kenosha.

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