Evidence Room Audit in Phase 3;

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico),
BYLINE: LAURA NESBITT Mountain View Telegraph

Torrance County, NM

Assessment To Be Done in December

An audit of the Torrance County Sheriff's Department evidence room that began in May is now entering its third phase.

The department will be finished with the audit by December, according to Sheriff Clarence Gibson.

The last time an audit was performed on the evidence room was about 10 years ago, said Gibson, who took over as sheriff in January after defeating Republican Susan Encinias in November. Former sheriff Pete Golden could not run again due to term limits.

The sheriff's department has divided the audit into four phases.

The first phase of the audit included going through all of the evidence, piece by piece, and categorizing it by matching it with reports and case files.

The second and third phases are both destruction phases that run concurrently, according to the sheriff.

What evidence is no longer needed and can be destroyed is determined by reviewing individual cases to determine if the case has been concluded, according to the International Association for Property and Evidence Web site.

"It's extremely time-consuming," Gibson said. "Even if we put the (entire) sheriff's department on it every day, it will still take months."

In the fourth phase, the department will once again perform a complete inventory of all evidence that remains.

Deputy Rodney Rector attended training by the IAPE in Nevada. Rector has been certified as an evidence technician who understands and can complete storage, maintenance and disposal of evidence.

Instead of hiring an independent agent that could have charged up to $18,000 for a mini-audit or even up to $60,000 for a complete audit, Gibson chose to work initially with Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano.

"Utilizing the (Santa Fe County) sheriff's department saved us a great deal of money," Gibson said.

Santa Fe deputies and evidence room technicians from Solano's department helped Torrance County complete the initial phase.

After Gibson completes the current audit this winter, he intends to perform an internal audit of evidence every three months.

"You can be a great cop on the street, but understanding rules of evidence is essential," Gibson said he told his deputies.

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