Police audit complete, but 249 pieces of evidence still missing

Police audit complete, but 249 pieces of evidence still missing

Lug nut, empty bottles among ‘unfound’ items; no missing jewelry, guns or cash, says deputy chief

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Officials say they’ve completed an audit of the North Providence Police Department’s evidence rooms to determine how many items are supposed to be there and how many of those are still unaccounted for.

Deputy Chief Charles Davey told The North Providence Breeze that the department collected 26,963 pieces of evidence between 2002 and 2017, and the outcomes for 249 of those items, or less than 1 percent overall, are still being investigated.

Of the 249 items in the department’s “virtual bin” of “unfound” items, said Davey, police officials now know that eight of them are empty medicine bottles taken during a 2015 call for a suicide. The officer who logged the bottles labeled them as drugs, he said, but there were no drugs in them.

“It looks like we have eight pieces of drug evidence missing if you look at it on its face,” said Davey. “But it looks worse than it actually is.”

In late April, Mayor Charles Lombardi demanded that police complete their long-running analysis of the evidence rooms, giving them a May 26 deadline, saying he was tired of reports about delays with the project.

Lombardi is now giving police more time to complete the audit.

Many of the items listed in April, which were mentioned in a report on an unrelated investigation of the North Providence Police Department by attorney Marc DeSisto, have since been located or found to have been properly destroyed or returned to owners, said Davey.

“We’ve noticed that some pieces that were returned to the owner or destroyed were not logged out in the correct ‘tab’ of the report but a supplemental report was completed,” he said. “This review is time consuming, but we are working on it right now.”

Davey said he can now confidently say that there are no missing pieces of jewelry, no missing guns, and no missing cash on the list of outstanding items. Of drugs that are still not found, all items would lead to a misdemeanor if found on someone, he noted.

“This is not kilos of cocaine we’re talking about here,” he said.

Police use the term “unfound” for items instead of “missing” because most or all instances of items not being found where they’re supposed to be end up being clerical errors or some other mistake, said Davey.

Due to the way one officer filed a report, creating a new document instead of canceling an earlier one, two small baggies of marijuana were logged incorrectly, making it look like there were four baggies, he said.

A gun previously found to have disappeared nine years ago was determined to have been returned to its owner after a 2008 court order, added Davey. The officer who logged the evidence in that case wrote in the wrong spot that the gun was returned, making it look like it was gone.

Davey said there may be some items police are never able to locate.

The missing item with perhaps the least value is a lug nut, according to Davey.

Some detective work is required to find many of the items, said Davey. For instance, with two missing watches taken during an incident of breaking and entering where a resident lost 40 items, an officer had to call to see if the department ever returned the watches. The owner confirmed that the watches had been returned, he said.

Some of the issues with missing items came about in 2012, when the police department more than doubled the size of its evidence room and items were improperly moved downstairs, said Davey.

In saying that the audit portion of the evidence room inspection is complete, Davey explained that every storage location has been examined and a final “virtual bin” of items still needing to be sorted through is being whittled down. He said an analysis of all of them could be done in the next few weeks, but it’s difficult to say for sure.