Pubdate: Tue, 28 Feb 2017
Source: Metro (Halifax, CN NS)
Copyright: 2017 Metro Canada
Author: Zane Woodford
Page: 2


Thousands of dollars, drugs still missing from audit

Tens of thousands of dollars and several kilograms of illicit drugs
are still missing from Halifax Regional Police evidence, but the chief
says there's no indication anything "untoward" has happened within his

Chief Jean-Michel Blais presented an update on the Drug Exhibit Audit
to Monday's meeting of the municipality's Board of Police
Commissioners, and outlined the preliminary results of a full
inventory, conducted between September 2016 and February 2017, of all
12,792 drug-related exhibits in the police database.

Police were originally unable to physically find 3,000 of those
exhibits, including $98,999.49 in Canadian currency. Blais didn't know
how many of the 3,000 had been found, but spokesperson Theresa Rath
Spicer said later Monday police have accounted for 140 of them, making
up $72,464.57 of the Canadian currency.

Among the items still outstanding is $26,534.92 in Canadian currency,
more than eight kilograms of marijuana, 1,540 marijuana plants, three
kilograms of hashish, more than a kilogram of cocaine and an
80,000-volt stun gun. Blais highlighted the fact that no firearms were
ever missing. The evidence issues affected one court case: one charge
was dropped against someone facing "numerous charges."

"We're very confident that our officers did not do anything untoward,"
Blais told reporters after the meeting. "What we are looking at and
what we have determined is that there are some gaps in our process, in
our policy, in the way that we've done things."

Blais attributed the problems to the amalgamation of Halifax,
Dartmouth and Bedford police forces in 1996, and the implementation of
a new records-management system in 2005.

Blais said police have made significant improvements to their
processes since this came to light, implementing 23 of 34
recommendations made after the original audit. The other 11 are in
progress. The board and regional council also tentatively approved a
new position for the police as part of their 2017 budget, a new
evidence custodian, which Blais said will help finish the audit and
better organize the evidence.

"We want to maintain the confidence of the public and we will work
very hard to do that," Blais said.

"My full expectation is that every day that goes by, there are more
exhibits, not just money, that are bring reconciled."

Board chair and Deputy Mayor Steve Craig asked Blais during the
meeting how long it would take police to complete the full audit.
Blais said he didn't expect it to be done this coming year, but within
the next few years. He couldn't provide an exact timeline.

"What I'd hoped for though, is a little bit more certainty on when we
were going to be finished this audit and how we're going to move
forward in the future," Craig said.

Though Craig is still concerned about the security of evidence in
police possession, he accepts the police explanation.

"I'm not getting any indication that there's anything underhanded or
criminal activity associated with that," Craig said.

That original audit was conducted between June and November 2015 after
an officer was accused of stealing from an evidence vault. When it was
released publicly last year, 72 of 507 exhibits in the random sample
were missing. A team of investigators was able to locate 34 exhibits -
meaning they were either found somewhere or destroyed.

The remaining 38, about 7.5 per cent of the sample, could not be
found. The team believes 32 drug-related items were destroyed, and six
cash exhibits were deposited into a police bank account, but it was
unable to prove that theory.

The six cash exhibits, totalling $4,956, could have been deposited
into a police bank account, but the team "could not determine any of
this conclusively due to insufficient documentation."

Deputy Chief Bill Moore told the Board the random sample was
representative of the whole of the evidence, and he expected to see
similar results when the broader audit was complete.
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