Ex­hibits ‘mis­placed’

Bad record keep­ing to blame for some 3,000 miss­ing items ac­cord­ing to po­lice

Cape Breton Post - - NEWS - BY KEITH DOUCETTE

Hal­i­fax po­lice are adamant that bad record keep­ing rather than any crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity by its of­fi­cers was be­hind the “mis­place­ment’’ of 3,000 of nearly 10,000 drug-re­lated ex­hibits un­cov­ered in a re­cent in­ven­tory.

Among the un­ac­counted for items were co­caine and other drugs, and more than 200 cash items to­talling $100,000.

Po­lice Chief Jean-Michel Blais told re­porters Mon­day the force was con­fi­dent there had been no wrong­do­ing.

“We’re very con­fi­dent that our of­fi­cers did not do any­thing un­to­ward,’’ said Blais. “What we are look­ing at and what we have de­ter­mined is that there are some gaps in our process and in our pol­icy and in the way that we did things.’’

Blais re­leased the over­all in­ven­tory num­bers dur­ing an ap­pear­ance be­fore the city’s board of po­lice com­mis­sion­ers, dur­ing which he also gave an up­date on a drug ex­hibit au­dit re­leased last June.

He said a phys­i­cal in­ven­tory was con­ducted on 9,792 ex­hibits from Sept. 16 to Feb. 17.

“The find­ings were ... that elec­tronic doc­u­men­ta­tion and qual­ity as­sur­ance were lack­ing,’’ Blais told the com­mis­sion­ers.

He also blamed a lack of stan­dard­ized of­fi­cer train­ing and the amal­ga­ma­tion in the mid 90s of three po­lice forces for the lax doc­u­men­ta­tion.

Blais said searches of records sys­tems are on­go­ing for the miss­ing items and while some had been found, he didn’t know at this point ex­actly how many.

But a handout given to com­mis­sion­ers showed po­lice had lo­cated 123 of the cash items to­talling $72,464 as of Mon­day. There were no mis­placed firearms, although a mini stun gun was still un­ac­counted for.

The var­i­ous drugs un­ac­counted for in­cluded 1,540 mar­i­juana plants, more than 1,300 grams of co­caine and opi­ods in­clud­ing hy­dro­mor­phone, mor­phine, Val­ium and 100 millil­itres of methadone.

Po­lice said 34 of 72 miss­ing ex­hibits in the orig­i­nal au­dit had been lo­cated, while it’s be­lieved that 32 of the re­main­ing 38 items were de­stroyed. The re­main­ing six cash ex­hibits to­talling $4,956 were be­lieved to have been de­posited in the spe­cial en­force­ment sec­tion’s bank ac­count.

“The re­view team found no ev­i­dence to sug­gest ex­hibits were mis­ap­pro­pri­ated, how­ever this con­clu­sion is not de­fin­i­tive,’’ the report states.

It said progress had been made on the 34 rec­om­men­da­tions made by last year’s au­dit in ar­eas such as ad­her­ence to pol­icy and pro­ce­dure and train­ing.

Blais said the force would have to wait to see if coun­cil would ap­prove the hir­ing of a cus­to­dian to over­see the drug ex­hibit in­ven­tory.

He said the pres­ence of three other cus­to­di­ans to over­see non-drug re­lated ex­hibits was the pri­mary rea­son po­lice are sure there aren’t sim­i­lar prob­lems.

“Their pro­cesses are very, very tight,’’ Blais said.

Po­lice com­mis­sion chair­man Steve Craig said he was sat­is­fied with what he heard from Blais when it came to de­ter­min­ing what had hap­pened to some of the ex­hibits.

“I’m not get­ting any in­di­ca­tion that there’s any­thing overtly un­der­handed or crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity as­so­ci­ated with that,’’ Craig told re­porters. “Things do go miss­ing and the fact of the mat­ter is we need to have an on­go­ing look at that.’’

But Craig ex­pressed con­cern that the au­dit process would take too long to com­plete.

Blais wasn’t spe­cific, but said the process would likely take the “next few years’’ to com­plete.

CP PHOTO

Chief Jean-Michel Blais, right, of the Hal­i­fax Re­gional Po­lice at­tends a meet­ing of the board of po­lice com­mis­sion­ers in Hal­i­fax on Mon­day. More than two dozen ex­hibits held as ev­i­dence in crim­i­nal mat­ters re­main un­ac­counted for fol­low­ing a sec­ond re­view of an in­ter­nal au­dit by the depart­ment.

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