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Up in smoke: W'burg officers set fire to controlled substances and drug paraphernalia seized in drug-related arrests

The Times-Tribune (Corbin, Kentucky)
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News
BYLINE: Adam S. Sulfridge, The Times-Tribune, Corbin, Ky.

Williamsburg, KY

Nov. 5 -- In the same location that Williamsburg officers publicly crushed over 5,000 cans of beer seized during bootleg busts, Chief Wayne Bird set fire to a gross amount of controlled substances and drug paraphernalia seized by the department in drug-related arrests.

Public Affairs Officer Shawn Jackson said, "Destroying the evidence is justice and satisfying for us officers because we know the cases have closure, and these drugs now cease to exist... they've been destroyed, and fortunately for locals, these drugs will never see the streets again."

Among the evidence destroyed were numerous items of drug paraphernalia, ranging from pipes for smoking, straws for snorting, and professional pill-crushing equipment. Several gallon-sized bags of marijuana and a similar sized bag full of liquid medication, such as Morphine, were destroyed. The marijuana slowly burned while the vials of liquid narcotics exploded like fire crackers. Overall, though, Chief Bird stated that around 85 percent of the evidence destroyed were pills.

"Some of this was recovered after pharmacy thefts," Jackson explained, referencing the bagful of liquid medicine.

"When you look at all the substances combined, the street value is a very high dollar amount."

Jackson explained the process of seizing evidence, saying, "When an officer seizes something, it is secured right then, and there's most always witnesses present. It's sealed in an evidence bag, and on the bag, there's a seal which can't be broken." Jackson reiterated, saying, "It's sealed right on scene."

After the evidence is secured at the scene of the crime, beginning paperwork is completed at the police department, where the evidence is also locked into a special room.

"Lt. Jason Caddell is in charge of the evidence, our evidence custodian," Jackson continued. "He is the only officer who has access to the evidence room... the Chief of Police doesn't even have a key to the room."

By state law, every department must have a designated evidence custodian who must undergo special training for the position.

He added, "They have to complete training, but not only that, they have to be a very credible person with a lot of honesty and integrity, because, let's face it, they have the key to a lot... They must have a very credible reputation, as Lt. Caddell does."

"It's logged anytime anybody makes entry to the evidence room, which is how it's to be done under law," he said, explaining how such procedures ensure that all seized evidence is never misplaced or taken for unlawful purposes.

The only times evidence is removed are when it's to be used in a court case, sent to a laboratory for analysis, or when a judge formally orders it to be returned to its rightful owner or destroyed.

Jackson said, "All of the cases this evidence was attached to have been resolved and destruction orders have come down from the court system."

Jackson said it was beneficial for area residents to see what actually happens to all the drugs Williamsburg police seize and said the department looks forward to similar events in the future.

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