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Farmington police evidence room review confirms need for change

The Daily Times Four Corners News,
BYLINE: Steve Garrison The Daily Times,

Farmington, NM

Mock assessors call for new policies, security measures

Eva Barron, civilian operation supervisor with the Farmington Police Department, opens a drawer containing evidence on Oct. 17 in the Farmington Police Department's drug evidence room in Farmington. em>(Jon Austria — The Daily Times)
FARMINGTON — Farmington police officials said that a third-party assessment of the department's approach to evidence processing confirmed the need for changes in light of allegations of evidence tampering.

Mock assessors from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, called CALEA, visited the department this week in advance of a formal review set for February.

Farmington police Chief Steve Hebbe said the assessors identified several areas for improvement, including the need for two full-time evidence technicians, a new drug room, more security features and updated policies.

Deputy Chief Vincent Mitchell is reviewing the assessors' recommendations, which he said were "spot on" with the department's own assessment, which was concluded before the CALEA review.

"We are definitely on track," Mitchell said.

As previously reported by The Daily Times, senior police officials dissected the department's approach to evidence processing in daily meetings after it was discovered on Oct. 14 that hundreds of pills and thousands of dollars went missing from the department's evidence room.

Ashley Goodvoyce, the department's former evidence technician, has been charged with numerous felonies in connection to the missing evidence and is expected to be arraigned in district court on Monday.

The mock assessment by CALEA was scheduled to take place before the evidence thefts were discovered.

Department officials currently have plans to install at least nine motion-activated cameras in areas where evidence is handled and will convert a department garage into a new drug evidence room. Officials also want to replace locks with entry card-swipes to track who enters that building.

Hebbe said Friday that a records custodian has been moved to the evidence room so that two full-time employees are processing evidence at all times.

Senior officials are also currently writing new policies for handling drugs, money and other sensitive items.

Hebbe said the department will have the new drug evidence room built before the department is formally reviewed by CALEA in February. He said that some, if not all, of the new security cameras will be installed by then and the department hopes to have the card-swipes installed by February, as well.

Mitchell said officers know that changes will be coming to the department and recognize the need.

"I think they have handled it pretty well," he said. "They get it. They don't want (thefts) to happen, too."

Hebbe said that officers need to know they are trusted, in spite of what happened.

"We are setting policies in place, but at the end of the day, we hire good people, we do thorough background checks and we have confidence in them," he said.

Evidence is stored Oct. 1 in the Farmington Police Department's drug evidence room in Farmington. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

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