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UPDATE: Shortly after this article was published, Carolina Public Press received new pertinent information from the Asheville Police Department. The department said it presently has more than 100,000 items in its evidence and property holdings, and that it adds an average of 11,000 items per year.

ASHEVILLE—The Asheville Police Department’s last year and a half of evidence and property audits show an increasingly meticulous approach to surveying the department’s holdings, but cases of missing items — including drugs and ammunition — still crop up.

Last summer, longtime APD evidence manager Lee Smith was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison and required to pay restitution for $30,000 worth of drugs he confessed to stealing from the department’s evidence room. At the same time, a 4,000-page audit hinting at the extent of other missing evidence, commissioned by the city of Asheville, was released.

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Auditors said then that after years of mismanagement and potential theft, and after the $175,000 spent on the audit, the APD would still need to locate and review a massive number of documents and items in order to determine just how much “cash, drugs or firearms are missing from the facility.”

Tightened standards and an ongoing accounting of missing items

Carolina Public Press has periodically requested and published APD evidence reviews since 2011. (Our last such report can be read here.) This one covers 10 evidence audits and inspections since November 2013, with the most recent one conducted earlier this month.

According to APD spokesperson Christina Hallingse, the Commission for Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, which accredits the APD, requires six evidence inspections a year. Some are done by evidence and professional standards staff and some are done by outsiders including the police chief.

The commission recently mandated that 100 items be randomly checked, and the APD instituted the new standard in its May 2015 audit. In that audit, the department received a perfect score.

“In short, we were 100 percent compliant with our audit,” Lt. Mark Byrd wrote in a summary.

Other recent audits have found lingering problems.

A May 2014 audit discovered that missing items included a “green lighter” from a homicide case, a gun magazine “with a total of 37 rounds,” a batch of “29 white tablets” and 1.2 grams of marijuana.

Similar other missing items are documented in several of the reports, all of which can be read below.

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For the record: The Asheville Police Department’s recent evidence audits

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Jon Elliston

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

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