Pubdate: Mon, 04 Jul 2016
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2016 The Halifax Herald Limited


Justice Minister Diana Whalen should appoint an independent 
investigator to probe what happened to the money and drugs that seem 
to have gone missing at the Halifax Police Department. There's no way 
around this.

After all, an internal audit completed at HPD last November found 
that a substantial portion of drug and cash exhibits couldn't be 
found where they were supposed to be. In May, auditors concluded that 
some money and pharmaceuticals were either AWOL (away without leave) 
- - or worse still MIA (missing in action).

That's all bad enough.

What's worse is that the HPD didn't bother reporting any of this to 
its governing body - the police commission - until the story was 
breaking in the media.

Councillor Steve Adams, who sits on the commission, didn't know a 
thing about the misplaced evidence until someone forwarded him a 
media article about it. His reaction was understated, in the 
circumstances, but still to the point. "This just goes to governance 
.. It was disturbing to know I wasn't made aware through the police."

A least one Halifax-area defence lawyer, meanwhile, is already asking 
whether the evidence against his clients has been lost. "If the 
evidence was misplaced or doesn't exist," Thomas Singleton said, "the 
Crown will have difficulty with the charges."

Mr. Singleton added, reasonably, that evidence should be kept safe, 
secure, documented and findable until all appeals in a criminal case 
have been exhausted.

What went wrong here?

Unfortunately, the problem seems to be sloppiness and lack of 
oversight and proper procedures.

It's been reported there were no security cameras in key places - 
outside the evidence vaults, for instance.

And it turns out those vaults could be opened using municipal master keys.

As one defence lawyer told CBC News, "My Windows password has more 
security than that."

This all falls in the lap of Ms. Whalen now. So far, she's said she 
backs the work of the police commission.

Sorry, that won't do.

The problem isn't with the commission, which can hardly govern the 
force if it isn't informed about what's happening at headquarters.

Here's what the public knows: Money has disappeared; drugs can't be 
found; the police commission was left in the dark; one officer faces 
charges linked to the alleged theft of lidocaine; and criminal 
prosecutions may be compromised.

An independent investigation, conducted at arm's length, is required 
to establish what went wrong, to make recommendations about how to 
set it right, and to restore public trust.

Nova Scotians may be about to head off on vacation during our too-few 
weeks of summer, but they still want governments to do something 
sensible when evidence goes missing in police custody.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom