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'One guy' leads to changes

Idaho Falls Post Register (Idaho), Main Edition

Idaho Falls, ID

Though the first-ever audit of the Police Department's evidence room was broad in scope, much of it focused on the procedural holes exploited by former City Prosecutor Kimball Mason.

The audit, conducted by former San Jose (Calif.) Deputy Police Chief Dan Bullock, concluded Mason alone was responsible for "unforgivable criminal acts" but included recommendations on how to stave off potential abuses of the evidence-handling system.

Mason, who served as the city's prosecutor for 12 years, has been locked up since May 30 after admitting to two counts of grand theft for taking guns from the IFPD's property room and keeping them for his personal use. He was charged with seven additional counts last week after a state investigation revealed some of the guns he took from evidence custodians and claimed to destroy had turned up at his Idaho Falls home.

Since 2001, Mason presented evidence custodians with at least 51 court orders -some legitimate, some bogus - to release guns to him.

The Idaho Attorney General's Office alleges he was reproducing judges' signatures on some of the orders without the judge's approval. But that type of anomy is unlikely to reoccur given the new safeguards to protect against crooks.

Idaho Falls Police Chief J. Kent Livsey, who told Bullock that problems with the department's evidence room prior to the Mason case were not on his "radar screen," said he embraces the changes.

"We're doing a lot of adjustments for the actions of one guy," he said.

Some of the steps include:

- Every court order presented to the department's evidence custodian will be reviewed by a superior officer. If questions are raised, Livsey said, the order will be taken to Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney Dane Watkins Jr., who will ask the court for a judicial review.

- The evidence custodian will receive additional training on property management and be certified by the International Association for Property and Evidence. The sergeant in charge of the evidence room will also get more training.

- Guns the department decides to destroy will be taken to Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, where an agent from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will supervise their dismantling. Prosecutors will no longer be able to destroy guns, as Mason said he routinely did.

Cops and Courts reporter Phil Davidson can be reached at 542-6750.


Quote from Dan Bullock, an evidence expert and former chief of police:

"It is unfathomable to me how the laws of Idaho and the procedures of the City of Idaho Falls could permit one person to remove items from the police property room and to then sell or trade those items for the benefit of that person or their office operation without the review and approval of a higher authority."

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