JPD chief makes statement on missing drugs, money from evidence

News comes after work by the Jonesboro Sun

JONESBORO, Ark. – Over $6,500 along with drugs and “other property” were unaccounted for following an investigation into evidence storage at Jonesboro Police Department, a statement from Chief Rick Ellioitt said late Friday on JPD’s Facebook page.

It began with a disclosure that evidence was missing for part of a recent trial. JPD had been responsible for this evidence. The chief disclosed a 2016 investigation into the Evidence and Property Section of the police department. No proof of criminal wrongdoing was found in the investigation and the chief said he felt it was “obvious mismanagement” which caused the loss of evidence.  $6658.50, could not be accounted for. There were also other items missing including “narcotics and general property,” Elliott wrote on Facebook.

“Since that time, there has been a personnel change in the Evidence and Property Section and we have taken other steps to ensure there are no further issues,” Elliott wrote.

The full letter, posted to JPD’s Facebook a short time before 5 p.m. Friday, November 3, 2017, is available below.

Statement from Chief Rick Elliott:

The Jonesboro Police Department, and I as your Chief, are committed to being open and transparent with those we serve. In general, we are not allowed to release personnel information or information regarding internal investigations due to state law. However, during a recent trial, it was disclosed that part of the evidence for that trial could not be located. JPD was responsible for the custody of this particular evidence.

Because of that disclosure, we have responded to questions from a local media outlet about that case and any others that may have evidence missing.

For that reason, I would like to inform the citizens of Jonesboro that an investigation was conducted in 2016 regarding the Evidence and Property Section of the police department. There was no proof of criminal wrongdoing at that time and no charges were brought against anyone.

It was discovered during an inventory conducted as part of the investigation that a substantial amount of money, $6658.50, could not be accounted for. There were also other items missing including narcotics and general property. Through the investigation, mismanagement of the evidence room was apparent which included a lack of general organization, improper or no documentation of the disposition of items of evidence, and items being located in areas where they did not belong and were not shown to be stored. There was also an overwhelming amount of evidence in our custody, much of which should have been purged well before this inventory.

As stated above, no one was accused of stealing or misappropriating these items; rather, because of obvious mismanagement, it is believed that most of the items that could not be located were most likely disposed of as they should have been, but the proper documentation was not kept.

Since that time, there has been a personnel change in the Evidence and Property Section and we have taken other steps to ensure there are no further issues. First, the number of items in our custody has been pared down significantly, through court orders for destruction or auction, or by returning property to its rightful owner. Second, we are working closely with all three of our prosecuting attorneys’ offices to determine the disposition of cases so we can dispose of property more quickly, keeping our number of items in evidence low. Also, cameras have been installed in both the evidence intake area and storage warehouse. Lastly, there has been a full and complete inventory of all critical evidence items (which includes narcotics, money and valuables, and guns) since the new evidence technician has been in place. The technician is now working to inventory the rest of the storage warehouse as quickly as possible.

I understand that this may cause some to call into question the integrity of this department or its employees, myself included. Please be assured that as soon as this problem came to my attention, my Office of Professional Standards investigated it, addressed it, and I have since taken steps to be sure there are no more problems of this nature.

It has always been my mission as your chief for this department to serve Jonesboro with the utmost integrity and professionalism and I will continue to expect that of any employee of this department.

Chief Rick Elliott

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