Archive for Friday, October 28, 2011

Police evidence facilities running out of space

October 28, 2011

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Officer Keith Jones checks the third level of the evidence room at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St. Crime evidence is housed in various locations and space is getting tight.

Officer Keith Jones checks the third level of the evidence room at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St. Crime evidence is housed in various locations and space is getting tight.

Officer Michael Ramsey processes items that were found in a stolen car. He had to use a roller storage cabinet for a work surface in the garage under the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center.

Officer Michael Ramsey processes items that were found in a stolen car. He had to use a roller storage cabinet for a work surface in the garage under the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center.

A ziplock bag holds smaller bags of cash that is waiting to be counted in the evidence room.

A ziplock bag holds smaller bags of cash that is waiting to be counted in the evidence room.

Lawrence Police Chief Tarik Khatib peers into the mountains of cardboard boxes lining the main evidence storage room on the second floor of the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St.

He jokes that his two evidence officers and civilian employee, who oversee thousands of pieces of evidence for the police and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, could work for shipping giant UPS.

“There’s not a wasted square foot of space, really,” Khatib says.

The room is in the former gym from when that part of the building was a jail, and it now includes a steel staircase for two makeshift floors inside. It’s more room for evidence officers Keith Jones and Doug Payne to find a place for new evidence, like possible stolen items that were recovered or even drugs, guns and money.

But there’s not much space left, and the police department has evidence stored in more than one place, including at the city-owned former Morton’s Building Materials Inc. building, 900 E. 15th St., where items like vehicles are contaminated with mold because the building leaks and has other problems.

Khatib has used the space restrictions for evidence storage as one example in urging city leaders to explore building a new law enforcement facility to house the entire department.

“We, as a law enforcement agency, have not really had a purposefully designed facility for just police, as long as I can remember,” said the 20-year department veteran.

Facilities assessment

Currently the city’s police department is largely split between the patrol division downtown at the law enforcement center, which also houses Douglas County District Court and the sheriff’s administration, and the Lawrence police detectives and administration in west Lawrence at the Investigations and Training Center, 4820 Bob Billings Parkway.

City commissioners on Tuesday will consider a proposed time line for assessing the police department’s buildings.

“At this point people recognize that we at least need to take a look at what our facility needs are,” he said. “The first step in that is finding an architectural firm or somebody familiar with police facilities to take a look at what we have.”

The proposal has the commission approving a possible architectural firm by late December, which could report back to commissioners in February. Commissioners did include $30,000 in their 2012 budget for the study.

Khatib said the outside firm could check for efficiencies in how the department currently uses its facilities, and commissioners could compare that with recommendations he has made, including for a building designed as a police department that could help protect more police vehicles, have better interview rooms and allow for the department to be housed in one building to facilitate better communication between patrol officers and detectives, for example.

He said the city around 2000 purchased the west Lawrence building, which was currently constructed as an office building, and that half of it is not habitable for the department without extensive renovation.

“A law enforcement facility sometimes is not perceived as glamorous and important and maybe as culturally significant as some of the other projects the city does,” Khatib said. “But there is a real need for a police department facility.”

Evidence process, challenges

Finding space for the 120,000 items collected in evidence is one major challenge the department has, Khatib said. It can be anything from a crushed can from a minor-in-possession case to a weapon in an alleged homicide to a vehicle bumper in a fatality accident.

“The proper handling of evidence and the proper preservation of evidence is a critical component of case preparation and prosecution and finding the truth in cases,” Khatib said.

He said his officers do their best despite the obstacle the tight space presents.

Often the evidence collected must stay there because court cases can take months or even years before they’re resolved. And even then, they’re required to preserve certain things later in case of an appeal. Jones, the evidence officer, pointed on Friday to a box of items the department had finally received legal permission to get rid of. They were from an auto burglary case from 1998.

Jones works to train officers, especially the new recruits, about how to package items to take up as little space as possible, especially when they are in paper bags.

“Do not package air,” Jones told the department’s 13 recruits in a recent presentation. “We’ve got plenty of it back there, and we really don’t need any more.”

He also implored the recruits to be cautious when they recover firearms, especially to make sure they are no longer loaded. If they can’t get the ammunition out, they must notify a supervisor and Jones himself before they submit the gun in an evidence locker.

“We need to know about it,” Jones said. “What I don’t want to have is one of us come to work and find a loaded weapon and it accidentally goes off.”

He also warned the recruits to be extra careful when they submit drugs, guns and money as evidence. Cases involving those items are most likely to be hotly contested in court, he said, and bring extra scrutiny on the department.

“You can see where your integrity as a police officer is very, very important,” Jones said. “You have to take that extra step and make sure that it’s done right, so that something doesn’t come back on you and could bite you.”

Comments

commonsenselawrence 3 years, 6 months ago

Looks to me like they have been doing that for the past twenty some years. It is truly an embarrassment for the city to operate their law enforcement function in this manner. Let's get a unified building that holds the entire municipal judicial entities similar to what Olathe has done..Police building and Municipal Court, which also has space needs.

cowboy 3 years, 6 months ago

Might I suggest a redevelopment project and locate the new pd on redbud. Kill two birds with one stone.

Ewok79 3 years, 6 months ago

Really???? You think Redbud is that bad. LMFAO!!

Oldsoul 3 years, 6 months ago

If they threw out all of the tampered evidence and southern-justice frame-up schemes they might have an empty storage room.

DillonBarnes 3 years, 6 months ago

Grab bag special!

$50 a box, you get to keep whatever is inside!

Neomarxist123 3 years, 6 months ago

The new facility will hold TWO black helicopters.

Just for you Smitty.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 6 months ago

I have a solution. Return all the illegally gathered "evidence" that was condoned by the former police chief, now of the KU Athletic Dept. His proceedure was to allow his officers to regularly violate the provisions of the 4th amendment of the U.S. Constitution and respond that this was their proceedure and that anyone's concerns were "unfounded. Chief, are you listening? Your predecessor was a terrible example of law enforcement proceedure. Some competant investigations by real investigators, not Chief Olin's thugs masqurading as law enforcement professionals. This should be done by some officers that have a comprehension of what the Bill of Rights means without interpretation by former Chief Olin

BlackVelvet 3 years, 6 months ago

Isn't it nice to be able to make blanket accusatory statements and not have to back them up with one shred of proof? What a country!!!

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 6 months ago

Velvet, I have the proof printed on official police reports of them specifically detailing how they collected evidence and the evidence they collected was noted on the report. It came nowhere near the items listed on the search warrant as required on the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution. Printed in plain english with no wiggle room for cops on the make for their evaluations. Everything I said was the absolute truth and I do have the proof.

BlackVelvet 3 years, 6 months ago

If you mean they collected evidence that wasn't listed on the front of the search warrant, it was my understanding that they can do that, as long as the items seized were immediately recognized as contraband or evidence of a crime. They do, however, need to list all items seized on the back of the warrant. At least that's what my constitutional law class taught me.

BlackVelvet 3 years, 6 months ago

If you mean they collected evidence that wasn't listed on the front of the search warrant, it was my understanding that they can do that, as long as the items seized were immediately recognized as contraband or evidence of a crime. They do, however, need to list all items seized on the back of the warrant. At least that's what my constitutional law class taught.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 6 months ago

Family photos of a birthday party, and a Christmas party, thank-you notes from a school class for participation in a Rotary club reading program, graduation photo, photos of friends that are now located elsewhere, a safe containing a coin collection (that was opened by the "suspect" for the cops who were going to "blow" itand ruin the safe and a briefcase containing newspaper clippings and personal records. They kept the safe as "evidence" anyway (but returned both many months later) Real smooth dudes, these LPD "defectives"

Oh, yeah, none of the "items" listed on the search warrant were found. Must of been quite a screwup for them to have to explain to their supervisor, or maybe not.

Real evidence in the minds of these gawd damned vicious bullies claiming to be law enforcement. Actually, crime scene fabricators, wonder if that would make a good TV show.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 6 months ago

I wonder how long the box and white blankets collected as evidence in 1986 were kept in storage.

kansasredlegs 3 years, 6 months ago

Seems it's time to get rid of all those MIP beer cans & cups, uh? Stop with the poor 'ole LKPD stories already Tarik, it'd be nice to have everything but we gots a Library to build.

kansasredlegs 3 years, 6 months ago

How about letting the officers "keep" the seized beer & fireworks for after shift parties at Clinton Lake or at FOP like they used to. Don't believe me, just ask the Chief or any officer with over 8 years on the force, they can set you straight.

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