Idaho Falls police hire outside help to examine property procedures

From Michael’s desk:
www.michaelrstrickland.com
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For the first time ever, the Idaho Falls Police Department is undergoing an audit of its property room procedures.

I wonder if there is a specific process in Pocatello to keep a Kimball Mason-type fiasco from happeneing in Bannock County.
From Michael’s desk:
www.michaelrstrickland.com
*****************************

Auditor in chief
I.F. police hire outside help to examine property procedures
By NOVELLA CARPENTER
from the Post Regsiter
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The review was called for in November and should be finished in about a month.

Retired San Jose Deputy Chief of Police Dan Bullock is carefully sifting through the evidence procedures for the Idaho Falls Police Department this week. No one is allowed to talk to him or otherwise disturb him as he spends time in the basement evidence room monitoring procedures and pulling files.

For the first time ever, the Idaho Falls Police Department is undergoing an audit of its property room procedures.

Bullock, an independent consultant, has been reviewing the methodology of the department for three days. He seeks to answer questions such as:

– “How are narcotics stored and purged?”

– “What is the chain of custody for weapons seized?”

– “Once a case is closed, how is property destroyed?”

“I wouldn’t say this is in response to Kimball Mason,” said Lt. Joe Cawley of the Idaho Police Department. “But we do want someone from the outside casting a critical eye.”

Idaho Falls Police Chief Kent Livsey called for the independent audit in November, just as the Mason case unfolded. At that time, the former city prosecutor was charged with stealing weapons from the Idaho Falls Police Department’s evidence room.

Mason was able to do so by presenting orders — some bogus, some legit — to the police department’s evidence custodians. The orders gave Mason the authority to obtain weapons used in court cases, for their disposal. Investigators believe he obtained 51 guns from 2001 through 2005. Mason then traded, sold or gave away the weapons. He says he disposed the rest of the guns at the county dump.

“What an outside audit does is say, ‘We’re transparent, we have nothing to hide,’ ” said Robert Taylor Jr., founder of the Taylor Group, a company that recently helped train Idaho State Police investigators in evidence handling.

Taylor said most police departments undergo outside audits, which are highly recommended. When criminality occurs within the agency, he said, it might present a “tainting element.” An audit helps protect the department from accusations of mishandling evidence.

Bullock has been conducting performance audits of law-enforcement property rooms for eight years, with additional experience in the Army’s Criminal Investigations Command.

Many departments in California have employed Bullock as an auditor. One, Grass Valley, a semirural force near the Nevada border, has hired him for multiple outside audits, which the department conducts annually.

Capt. Dave Remillard of the Grass Valley Police Department expressed satisfaction with Bullock’s work.

“He’ll show strong and weak areas, things that should change,” Remillard said. “He’s a bit of an evidence guru. You need people who’ve been immersed in these procedures.”

In Idaho Falls, the police department shelled out several thousand dollars for the audit. In about a month, Bullock will file the findings of his report, and the department will release the results. The department hopes to conduct an audit every year, though the details are being worked out.

“You can get a little close to yourself,” Cawley said. “We want to know if something is happening.”

Reporter Novella Carpenter can be reached at 542-6743.

Series synopsis

“Criminal Lawyer” is the Post Register’s continuing investigation of disgraced Idaho Falls Prosecutor Kimball Mason’s theft of 51 guns from evidence lockers. Reporters also are checking how other cities prevent this sort of corruption.

JUNE 4

The 1,508-page report of an Idaho Attorney General’s office investigation showed how clerks, police and judges trusted Mason instead of closely reading the law, allowing him to steal from the city.

July 30

Other states have stricter evidence disposal laws than Idaho, and evidence experts say it was highly unusual for Mason to take care of evidence disposal without having a witness present.

today

An independent auditor is sifting through evidence and records at the Idaho Falls Police Department this week. This is the department’s first evidence audit by an outside company and the findings are expected to be released in the next few weeks.

upcoming

The Idaho Attorney General is investigating additional charges against Mason and the actions of others who may have assisted him.

What is an audit?

A property audit is an impartial review of the policies, procedures and actions of an operation to determine whether they meet the recognized standards and the agency’s own policies. An external audit performed by nonemployees of the agency avoids internal politics and provides a level of independence that cannot be obtained from an internal audit.

Source: International Association of Property and Evidence

Why audit?

Failure to conduct regular audits enables problems that can easily lead to court cases being lost, an erosion of public confidence, personnel problems and possible financial loss.

Unanswered questions

As Bullock reviews the Idaho Falls Police Department’s evidence procedures, the following questions should have answers (from IAPE):

– Who seized the property?

– Where and at what date and time was it seized?

– Who documented it?

– Who packaged it?

– Who placed it in the temporary storage locker?

– Who retrieved it from the locker and processed it into the property system?

– Who put it away and at what time and date?

– Who signed the property out for court use; when and what was the disposition?

– Who signed it out for analysis, who transported it, who analyzed it and when and with what results, and who transported it back to the property room?

– Who authorized release of the property?

– Who notified the owner to retrieve the property?

– Who released it and when?

– What identification was obtained from the owner prior to release?

– If the item was destroyed, when and where did it happen, and who witnessed it?

– If the item was diverted to official use, who requested it, who authorized the transfer, and to whom was it delivered and when?

– Did the recipient of the diverted item sign for it?

– If the item was auctioned, is there a paper trail of when, where and to whom it was it sold?