BYLINE: Rob Masson, Reporter,
New Orleans, LA
New Orleans acting police chief Warren Riley talks with reporters in New Orleans Monday Oct. 10, 2005. Riley spoke about the personal loss of many of his officers. It is thought that 80 percent of the force lost home to the hurricane. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
New Orleans - It was a major breech of security in a police department that was on the rebound after Katrina.
$200,000 taken from the N.O.P.D. evidence room, and with just days left in his administration, Chief Warren Riley is determined to solve the crime.
It was an affront to veteran defense attorney Rick Teissier.
Back in November of 2008, Teissier learned that $20,000 of his client's dollars were missing from the New Orleans Police evidence room.
That evidence room was nothing like it used to be.
But even after Katrina forced the flooded evidence room to be moved three times, Riley was confident that proper security procedures were still being maintained to protect evidence central to hundreds of court cases.
In an exclusive interview with FOX 8, Riley said, "Our policy clearly states, just the commander and an individual officer have access, two keys."
When FOX 8 broke the story about the thefts, Riley says he was surprised to learn that nearly a dozen people had access to evidence room keys.
The thefts, totaling well over $200,000 in cash, spurred a lot of repercussions. Teissier threatened to file a lawsuit.
The theft also started a war of words with former evidence room chief Danny Lawless, who counted a former D.A. among his supporters.
Harry Connick called for the mayor to fire Riley.
A year and a half later, the thief, or thieves are still not caught. But with just three and a half weeks left at the helm of the NOPD, Riley says he is determined to pinpoint who's responsible.
The chief has now announced some extraordinary steps to find a thief within the ranks.
Riley says, "Several weeks back I asked the I.R.S. to come in. They're looking into their financial background, accounts, people making major purchases.
Dotting I's so to speak to cover every aspect to that investigation," Riley says.
Riley has also forced officers and civilians, previously assigned to the evidence room, to take polygraph tests
Many of those now implicated took the lie detector tests in the presence of lawyers furnished by the Fraternal Order of Police.
And while he ramps up his investigation, Riley says he's completely revamped evidence room security with two keys instead of nine.
"It won't happen in the future because now that money goes to the bank," he says.
But there are still no arrests, something Riley hopes to correct.
"I have full intention to close this out before I leave," he says.
That's a promise that will be a challenge to keep with three and a half weeks left in his administration.
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