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Human error at the core of missing drug exhibits, say police

Audit changes how police file evidence

3 min read
caption Police Superintendent Jim Perrin answers reporters questions at City Hall Monday
Tunde Balogun
caption Police Supt. Jim Perrin answers reporters’ questions at city hall Monday.
Tunde Balogun

Halifax Regional Police say they still can’t account for almost 30 kilograms of marijuana, 2.91 kilograms of cocaine and over $8,000 in cash missing from exhibit lists, but don’t believe anything was stolen.

Police Supt. Jim Perrin presented a final Drug Exhibit Audit report at the Board of Police Commissioners meeting on Monday. This ends an investigation sparked by an accusation that a police officer stole evidence in 2015.

Perrin told reporters after the meeting the missing exhibits were caused by human error and staff weren’t at fault.

“We couldn’t physically account for some of these items,” he said. “We believe they were destroyed, but we can’t conclusively say that.”

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Perrin said there were discrepancies when officers were logging in evidence. For example, he said, police raided an outdoor marijuana grow-op and destroyed 120 plants on site. While those plants were counted as evidence, they were not physically stored as exhibits.

He called the situation a learning opportunity.

“Anytime something goes eerie in policing, sure your reputation can take a hit,” said Perrin.

“But (as) I also said before, we’re humans; people doing their processes and from time to time there’s going to be mistakes. So don’t judge us on the mistakes we make, but judge us for how we respond to those mistakes.”

In 2015, a police officer was accused of taking 700 grams of lidocaine from the drug vault. He was charged with three counts including theft, but all charges were later withdrawn. That led police to conduct a physical audit of drug exhibits seized between 1992 and 2016.

The audit revealed that 38 cash exhibits, 263 large drug exhibits and 2,488 small drug exhibits could not be located. In 2016, the police came up with 34 recommendations to ensure this doesn’t happen again. The recommendations include:

  • The destruction of drug exhibits will be done with consent of the minister of health or a judge.
  • Seizure of money over $1,000 will be transferred to a public trustee or Integrated Proceeds of Crime.
  • HRP money accounts must be audited.
  • Two people must weigh drugs and count money before entering it into evidence.
  • Yearly audits and inventories must be conducted on drug exhibits.

According to the final audit, all but three of the recommendations have been implemented. The auditing of police money accounts is ongoing, as the accounts aren’t being actively used and new deposits haven’t been made.

Along with yearly audits, Chief Jean-Michel Blais said he expects to conduct “spot checks” to ensure compliance with policy and procedures. He would also like to expand the scope of searches put forward by the audit recommendation.

“Now that we have done this on drug exhibits, we will be looking at seeing what other areas we can look at tightening up as well,” Blais told reporters after the meeting.

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