Audit finds lost evidence at unnamed Utah police departments

This file photo shows illegal narcotics seized by the Utah Highway Patrol during 2017. This includes over 4,400 pounds of marijuana and over 550 pounds of methamphetamine, among other narcotics, location unspecified, circa 2017 | Photo courtesy of the Utah Department of Public Safety, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Police have lost track of dozens of pieces of evidence, including drugs, paraphernalia and at least one gun, according to a state audit performed over the last year.

The report released Wednesday found missing evidence at five out of the seven unnamed agencies in the review sample. It found a total of nearly 80 missing controlled substances, more than 50 pieces of drug paraphernalia and a few cases of missing money.

Some of those missing items were likely destroyed, disposed or transferred to other agencies without proper documentation, police officials told auditors. Still, without inventory records or documentation auditors were unable to confirm if “items were missing due to poor record-keeping, theft or some other reason.”

Nearly 200 items were misplaced but later located.

Utah State Auditor John Dougall said the agencies were chosen randomly and were of varying sizes throughout the state, but he expects the problems they found could crop up at any of the state’s 100-plus law-enforcement agencies.

“From our perspective, this is really a call to action for each of these agencies to look at their policies and procedures, look at their operations and identify what are the weaknesses,” he said.

The findings come after a Weber County evidence technician pleaded guilty in October to stealing and using methamphetamine from police storage over three years. Dougall said the audit was started before the case was discovered, but it’s an example of why evidence disposal, especially of drugs, should be supervised by two people.

The review conducted from August 2018 to April 2019 also found problems with how departments control access to evidence rooms, including a failure to not immediately deposit seized money in a bank.

Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST Associated Press.

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