APD Chief William Anderson announces the hiring of a new evidence-room manager. Anderson says he now knows who was responsible for the APD's missing items, but won't say more until the investigation is complete. Colby Rabon/Carolina Public Press

Chief: Evidence-room audit recommendations still under wraps

The Asheville Police Department has hired a new full-time manager for its evidence and property room, Chief William Anderson announced at a press conference this morning. Timothy Scapin, an experienced evidence manager from Florida, is slated to being working in Asheville on March 4, Anderson said.

Anderson also offered updates on the operations of his department’s new and old evidence rooms, the latter of which became the subject of a State Bureau Investigation probe after it was discovered in 2011 that key items were missing. The breach occurred before Anderson’s time in Asheville.

“What I can tell you, without jeopardizing any of the facts of the investigation, is, we know what happened in our property room,” Anderson said. “Not only do we know what happened, we know how it happened, and we know who was responsible.”

Anderson said he’d been briefed by the SBI on the findings of the investigation but didn’t know when it would be completed, and he refused to share additional details about the missing evidence. He also declined to comment on whether there is a federal investigation. It is unknown when or whether any criminal charges will be filed.

“We’re just waiting for the district attorney’s office and the SBI to do what they do in dealing with this issue,” he said.

Scapin has worked for 11 years in evidence management, at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, according to a biographical summary shared at the press conference. It said he had received two Distinguished Service Awards for this work there, and that he was the first person in Florida to be certified as an evidence specialist by the International Association for Property and Evidence. Click here to see a PDF of the biographical summary.

More than 100 people applied for the evidence-manager job, Anderson said. Scapin’s annual salary will be $50,502.40.

The management of evidence “is one of the most sensitive areas with any law enforcement agency,” Anderson said. “So having somebody come in with this level of experience in this area, I think, is going to take us to where we need to be.”

See the entirety of Anderson’s comments in a video here, recorded by Carolina Public Press.

YouTube video

Chief cites ongoing improvements, but need for more space, purging plan

Asheville’s last evidence manager, Lee Smith, resigned in February 2011 after being suspended. Since then, while a search for a new manager was undertaken, several department employees have staffed the evidence rooms.

“I’m extremely pleased with the level of work that’s been conducted by our folks in the property room,” Anderson said. “Our new property room is much better organized than our old property was.”

Last year, Anderson said, the department conducted 12 audits and inspections of evidence, and found no items missing. But the flood of items into APD custody is once again causing a space crunch, which could make it hard to keep the items sorted out.

Between August and December of last year, Anderson said, the department took in some 5,000 property and evidence items. In the same time period, about 1,000 items were returned to their owners and some 500 were destroyed, he said.

“We have outgrown our current space,” Anderson said. The department will need to more efficiently dispose of items in the future and perhaps even obtain an offsite storage area for larger items, he said.

Some of Scapin’s first tasks, Anderson said, will be to determine how best to staff the evidence room and purge old items. He estimated that it will take two to three years to fully sort out the problems stemming from mismanagement of the old evidence room.

Still no recommendations from city-commissioned audit

It’s been more than a year since the completion of a sizable, city of Asheville-commissioned audit of the old evidence room by private firm Blueline Systems & Services. That report was delivered to Buncombe County District Attorney Ron Moore in January 2012, and he has refused to release any portion of it.

A public-records lawsuit, filed by Carolina Public Press and four other local-media outlets last summer, failed to prompt the audit’s release.

Last July, after Blueline manager Mike Wright briefed City Council on some of his findings, Anderson told city council he’d like to see the report.

“In order for us to move forward … we really need to see the audit that’s in the custody of the district attorney,” he said. “We need to look at all the recommendations that are in that audit, and we need to look at the findings that Blueline identified, because that basically is going to be the roadmap to take us where we need to go.”

At the same meeting, Council instructed City Attorney Bob Oast to request the audit’s recommendations from Moore, which Oast did two days later.

At his press conference today, more than seven months since that Council meeting, Anderson said he still hasn’t seen any of the Blueline audit. Asked why, he said, “I think that’s a question for the district attorney.”

A message left for Moore was not immediately returned.

Special Investigation

For more of Carolina Public Press’ ongoing special investigation into the Asheville Police Department, go here.

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Jon Elliston is the lead contributing open government reporter at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at jelliston@carolinapublicpress.org.

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