Special Report: New Evidence Room

Updated: Tuesday, May 13 2014, 12:05 AM EDT
Special Report: New Evidence Room story image
Missing drugs, guns and cash jeopardized criminal cases, all blamed on mismanagement in the Asheville Police evidence room.

Now, three years after the S.B.I. shut it down, major changes are in place, designed to set a new course for the A.P.D. News 13 was given exclusive access to the department's new evidence room, a first-ever tour provided anyone outside law enforcement and local government.

"When I came here, I know there was big challenge, trying to build that trust back, that public trust", says new A.P.D. Evidence Manager Tim Scapin. Scapin came to Asheville in March of 2013, after 11 years working for the Pinellas County, Florida Sheriff's Office. The A.P.D. scandal broke in early 2011, when it was first discovered that drugs, then guns and cash, had disappeared.

The S.B.I. locked down the evidence room and prosecution of criminal cases was jeopardized. Asheville Police Chief Bill Hogan resigned. The evidence room manager at that time, Lee Smith, was eventually convicted of stealing drugs.

Current Police Chief William Anderson says, "We had a situation where an individual was allowed to damage our reputation, damage our operations.  We knew that coming into this, that it was going to be a challenge, and it had to be fixed."

Officials say the goal of the new evidence operation is care, custody and control. There is what is known as the "two person rule," prohibiting anyone from entering any secured area alone.  Evidence is also transported to the lab or the courtroom by two people. All items are vapor-sealed in clear plastic evidence bags, computer-catalogued and stored in a new, climate-controlled space.

Another job being done is the inventory of tens of thousands of pieces of evidence still in the old evidence room.  All of it is being checked and recorded in the new computer system. Tim Scapin says it is a painstaking and gradual process.  "We are making progress, we are moving forward, and every day is a step further removing ourselves from the issues of the past." 

By: Frank Kracher
Follow Frank on Twitter @FrankKracherSpecial Report: New Evidence Room
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