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Asheville Police Chief William Anderson said the department will conduct a nationwide search for a new evidence-room manager, but added he has not asked to review the audit sparked by the discovery that guns, drugs and weapons had gone missing.
Anderson’s comments came this morning during a briefing to about a half-dozen media outlets on how his department will now oversee evidence.
The department’s old evidence room remains sealed while the State Bureau of Investigation conducts a criminal probe into the missing evidentiary items, he said, and a new room is being used for current cases.
The SBI’s investigation, Anderson noted, “is continuing, (and) we do not have a timeline when that will be complete.”
Seven APD officers now staff the new evidence room, but Anderson said he hopes to pare that number down with a new hire.
“After a review of the operations of our property and evidence room, we are preparing to proceed in the hiring of a new property manager” for the room, Anderson said. He said the process could take three to four months.
“We view this as part of a continuing healing process to help bring credibility and community confidence back to the Asheville Police Department,” he said. “And we feel that this is one of the first steps in doing that.”
The audit report of the old evidence room, which was commissioned by Asheville City Council in April 2011 and completed in January, “remains in the hands of the district attorney, and we do not have a copy,” Anderson said.
Buncombe County District Attorney Ron Moore has briefed Anderson on that audit, the police chief said, adding that he has neither asked to see the audit nor reviewed it personally.
Anderson refused to discuss what Moore had told him about the audit’s findings, saying they are part of an ongoing investigation.
“Once that investigation is over, I would anticipate that it would become public record and be released,” he said. He cautioned that SBI investigations are “notoriously slow” but thorough.
Anderson said that his department is “cooperating fully with the SBI,” but that no one presently employed by the department is under investigation in the matter.
Asked whether any former employees are under investigation, he said, “I can’t answer that.”
Anderson did say, however, that he has had experience dealing with similar evidence room problems previously in his career.
“Unfortunately this is not uncommon,” he said. “In my past assignment (as chief of police in Greenville, N.C.), I did have to replace the property manager and the entire staff that was working in property and evidence, so it’s something that I’ve been through before.”
None of those police employees were charged with crimes relating to missing evidence, he noted.
Asked what he meant by the need for a “healing process,” Anderson said: “This has been a black eye for our city, it’s been a black eye for our department. There’s a lot of good men and women who come to work everyday and do a bang-up job here at the Asheville Police Department, and they’ve taken a hit. Because of this, our community has taken a hit. And we need to heal from that, we need to move on from this. We need to make sure that our operations are state-of-the-art (and) meeting industry standards.”
More from Carolina Public Press on the Asheville Police Department’s evidence-room audit: