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Losing crime evidence a worry with LAPD system

The Daily Breeze,
BYLINE: C.J. Lin, Staff Writer,
Link to Article

Los Angeles, CA

AUDIT: Report months ago found errors, but replacing old tracker will take time.

Six months after an audit exposed problems with the Los Angeles Police Department's evidence rooms, concern remains that the department's outdated tracking system could lose evidence crucial to criminal cases.

The June audit looked at the evidence-tracking system, installed 20 years ago, and found errors in 6 percent of the pieces studied. The audit said evidence was not described accurately, items weren't stored where they were supposed to be, and the potential for the program to malfunction was "eminent."

"It's certainly a risk," said Richard Drooyan, president of the Los Angeles police commission, the civilian oversight board of the LAPD.

"Say there was a piece of physical evidence, a shirt that matched a shirt being worn by a bank robber in a bank robbery," Drooyan said. "You want to be able to have the detective say, `This is the shirt I found when I searched the suspect's house.' If that shirt is missing, you can't tie it to the bank robbery because you don't have it anymore."

The problem is compounded by near-capacity property rooms and a lack of electronic monitoring of who accesses the rooms, according to the audit.

The electronic security system that controls access to property rooms is not working in several divisions, and there are no automatic logs of those entering or leaving the rooms, according to the audit. The audit also found that surveillance cameras monitoring the rooms were not regularly monitored or reviewed.

Since the audit, department officials said they have begun routine inspections of the security systems and surveillance tapes.

The department is drafting a request for proposals for a new evidence-tracking system. It could take at least six months to select a vendor, according to officials.

"I'm satisfied that they know it's a priority and that they're going to move to get this thing out," Drooyan said. "But I'm not satisfied with the system that we have in place."

Drooyan said he was not aware of any instances where evidence was lost, or of any criminal cases being affected by the antiquated system.

"This is a problem that is known to the entire city and the department," said Cmdr. Scott Kroeber of LAPD's Office of Special Operations. "The systems in place are such that I believe they are sufficient for what can and should be done until we bring it online."

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