Halifax Regional Police say they are still looking for 38 evidence exhibits that were identified as missing or misplaced, but there’s no evidence that any of it was “misappropriated.”
Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais provided police commissioners with an update of an ongoing review on missing evidence exhibits on Monday.
“Moving forward, we’re focused on ensuring procedures are strictly adhered to by all officers,” Blais wrote in a statement concerning the 2015-16 Drug Exhibit Audit.
The audit randomly selected 507 pieces of evidence, of which 74 items were initially thought to be missing. The results of the audit were made public in June 2016.
HRP responded to this by conducting an audit review to locate the missing exhibits.
While Blais promised in January that every exhibit would be accounted for by Monday’s meeting, police are still struggling to find 38 missing items.
He said 32 of the 74 items (including drugs, drug paraphernalia and other non-drug items) are believed to have been destroyed. Police believe the six remaining items (cash exhibits totalling $4,956) have been deposited into a Special Enforcement Section (SES) bank account.
SES was responsible for locating the missing items as part of the review team. In addition to an SES sergeant, the review team included two investigators and a civilian employee, according to a report on the audit review.
The report also said the team could find no evidence of “misappropriated” items, but “this conclusion is not definitive.”
The report also said police can’t conclusively determine what happened to the items because of inadequate record keeping.
The review team performed its own inventory of 9,792 exhibits between September 2016 and February.
Police now have “enhanced training (and) strengthened quality assurance and oversight” to ensure better exhibit handling, according to Blais’ statement.
There are 34 recommendations in the audit that police say have been or are currently being adopted. These include:
- replacing a wooden vault door with a steel one,
- installing CCTV cameras at vault access points,
- individualized vault access codes,
- enforcing a “two-person rule,” where two people are present when drugs and money are documented.
Additionally, HRP will hire a new evidence custodian to help implement the recommendations of the audit.
Police say they are aware of only one court case that has been affected by missing evidence so far.
When asked by board chair Steve Craig when the review of the audit would be completed, Blais said it could take several years. Coun. Waye Mason expressed frustration when Blais could not provide a more concrete timeline.
Blais said he will continue to provide monthly updates to the Board of Police Commissioners on progress made regarding the audit.