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JC Police Explain, Defend Evidence Storage

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By Jason Weinstein.
An audit released by the State Comptroller's Office Tuesday revealed the Johnson City Police Department was missing paperwork on some high-risk property items, including a firearm, drug items, counterfeit bills, and jewelry.

Today the department showed those items, saying many of the pieces deemed missing by the audit date back to before the department's transition to computerized tracking of evidence was fully implemented in 2010.

"There were some clerical errors made during that transition period, not errors in evidence handling. We didn't lose anything. Simple clerical errors account for nearly all of this stuff that wasn't able to be located," said Johnson City

Police Chief Brent Dodge.Dodge said much of the evidence the audit claimed was missing - 16 of the 26 pieces - was not actually evidence but contraband to be destroyed, such as prescription drugs found during unattended deaths of elderly people.

"A reasonable person can make the assumption that nobody stole an old lady's blood pressure pills," said Dodge.

All but two pieces of evidence from criminal cases are accounted for at the department. Two others have paperwork showing they were released by the department.

One, a car, was released to a garage. Another, jewelry from a robbery, was taken to auction. Another criticism leveled by the audit was that evidence room officers also had administrative access to the evidence computer. Dodge says this is necessary.

"They have to be able to be open those evidence case files, to input the evidence and then to update the case as to what location it's been stored in. So to say they shouldn't have administrative rights is erroneous," said Dodge.

Dodge said the audit showed two changes do need to be made: the Department needs to update it's procedure manual to include the current evidence policy, and it needs to include an audit of evidence officers' computer activity as part of the department's semi-annual review of it's evidence procedures.

****In Johnson City, Jason Weinstein, FOX 40 HD News****