Toledo Blade (Ohio)
BYLINE: ERICA BLAKE BLADE STAFF WRITER
For 20 years, Carl Beckman was assigned to oversee the evidence collected by Sylvania police and stored in the department's property room.
Yesterday, the former police officer pleaded guilty in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to theft in office for stealing thousands of dollars from the property room over more than 10 years.
Beckman, 59, faces up to five years in prison when sentenced April 30 by Judge Ruth Ann Franks. He also will be ordered to pay $29,112 in restitution.
"I was employed with the Sylvania Police Department. I was assigned as a property room and evidence officer," Beckman told Judge Franks yesterday. "I took money from the safe."
A 36-year veteran of the department, Beckman retired last month just days before he was indicted on the felony charge. He was hired in April, 1973, and assigned to the property room in 1988. When he left, his annual base pay was $68,800.
The money was taken between January, 1996, and January, 2009, from the property room, which houses all evidence seized during the investigation of crimes. Cash stored in the property room was from suspects and, at the conclusion of the case, either would be returned or forfeited to the department.
Chief Gerald Sobb, who did not attend the plea hearing, said Beckman was a longtime trusted officer. He said the theft was discovered while trying to deposit money recently forfeited after a criminal case had concluded.
"Obviously, as we know from watching the news on just about any day of the year, it's very difficult to have trusted employees and they steal from you," the chief said. "... It's what you do from that day on, and we have changed all procedures for the property room."
Since discovering the thefts, the department has begun depositing all money taken as part of a criminal investigation into a dedicated bank account through the city's finance department. Though that makes access to the money more cumbersome, it ensures both safety and a paper trail, the chief said.
Additionally, video cameras have been installed in the property room, and the department has instituted both annual audits and random spot audits throughout the year, Chief Sobb said.
Before the thefts, the department did comprehensive audits only when the officer in charge of the property room changed. Beckman had been the officer in charge 20 years, the chief said.
The most recent comprehensive audit has not yet been completed, he added.
"If I had even the slightest idea that this guy wasn't 110 percent honest, he wouldn't be in that position, but life goes on," Chief Sobb said. "Now we're going to do the best we can to ensure that this won't happen again."
Beckman and his attorney, Dick Roberts, declined to comment after the plea. Mr. Roberts told Judge Franks though Beckman does not recall the exact amount he took from the property room, he doesn't dispute the agreed-upon amount of restitution.
When reviewing his plea, Judge Franks told Beckman he will forever be barred from holding public office or a position of trust. He also will be banned from owning a gun.
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