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Surprise audit finds deficiencies in police storage

[07/17/01] A surprise audit of the property and evidence storage rooms at the Vicksburg Police Department has revealed deficiencies in how evidence is safeguarded by police.

Mayor Laurence Leyens said Monday that he and Police Chief Mitchell Dent on Friday inspected the storage area where evidence from criminal investigations is kept and found drugs easily accessible and cash not being properly handled. Leyens said officers would be spending the week organizing the evidence.

“The purpose of the inventory was not to undermine the police department,” Leyens said. “It was to protect the police department and the general public.”

Problems cited by Leyens included drugs confiscated by police not being locked up and evidence stacked to the ceiling in unlocked rooms. He stated that at the time of the inventory, people were able to walk in and out of the storage areas without being checked.

“Evidence needs to be checked in and checked out with a witness,” Leyens said. “There’s a methodology so that evidence doesn’t just disappear.”

Dent said that one of the problems at the police department is that there is one room designed for evidence storage and that four other rooms are currently being used. He said the limited space has left evidence congested and difficult to organize.

“The department was not built for the operation that we have today,” Dent said.

He cited the need for the expansion of the department into the Ellis building next door and upgraded computer software for logging evidence.

The current facility used by the Vicksburg Police Department was built in 1997 and replaced the B’nai B’rith Literary Club as police headquarters. The Ellis building next door was purchased by the city in 1999 for the police department and once completed later this year will include an indoor firing range and a new evidence storage facility.

Leyens said he has asked the city building and maintenance department to push for the completion of the new storage areas in the Ellis building. In the meantime, the locks for the evidence storage rooms are being rekeyed and the keys held by Municipal Judge Allen Derivaux.

The city board also Monday approved purchasing computer software to upgrade programs used by the police department. The software will cost $12,400 including training for the officers.