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OPA: Security at DPS evidence facility inadequate

SECURITY at the Department of Public Safety’s evidence facility is inadequate, the Office of the Public Auditor stated in a report dated Jan. 28, 2019.

OPA said it conducted a site visit on Dec. 4, 2018 to observe both the evidence facility and the temporary evidence facility.

OPA noted that evidence was still being stored at the temporary   facility which had a two-step security system to enter and exit and a total of two security cameras to monitor the exit.

“The physical security of the facility is inadequate,” OPA added.

In regards to improvements to the evidence facility, DPS informed OPA that the construction of the evidence room started prior to Super Typhoon Yutu, but the project has been placed on hold due to the post-typhoon recovery efforts.

OPA said its findings remain unresolved, adding that it will conduct a follow-up in June 2019.

In 2005 OPA issued a lengthy and highly critical report regarding DPS’ recording and retention of evidence.

“Due to the fact that criminal cases have been reportedly dismissed due to irregularities and missing evidence,” OPA said it conducted a second audit and reviewed the operations of the evidence facility from calendar year 2006 through Dec. 2009. OPA said it also applied full audit procedures and testing for calendar year 2010 through July 2014.

On March 11, 2015, Public Auditor Michael Pai sent a report to then-DPS Commissioner James Deleon Guerrero regarding the audit on DPS evidence preservation, accountability and control.

Pai noted that “the proper recording and retention of potential evidence is a critical element in the successful prosecution of individual suspects and resolution of criminal cases. Failure to maintain the recording and retention of evidence can jeopardize the ultimate conviction of apprehended defendants. When this happens, it  not only will free a potentially dangerous person back into the community, but will also create an extreme waste of resources that were previously expended in the detection, investigation and prosecution of the suspected criminal.”

OPA found that:

  • • The physical security of the DPS evidence facility was inadequate.
  • • Updated written policies and procedures were not completed until 2010 and were not distributed until the beginning of OPA’s audit in 2015.
  • • Certain existing policies and procedures were inadequate and did not meet acceptable standards.
  • • The facility was a multi-use facility that included the offices of the crime scene technicians, which was incompatible with the security of evidence.
  • • The evidence section failed to properly account for and protect individual items of evidence.
  • • Firearms seized and weapons submitted for safekeeping were inadequately documented, and in some cases records were non-existent.
  • • Evidence was not submitted to the facility in a timely manner.
  • • The evidence section failed to dispose outdated evidence items.

 Variety was unable to get a comment from DPS.