Richmond's city auditor is questioning if the evidence in criminal cases could be compromised. Umesh Dalal says he's concerned about conditions at the facility where police keep property and evidence because a recommendation to relocate the storage has not been enacted.
That recommendation was made in an audit back in July of 2010 and in another report just issued Dalal says the property and evidence room still hasn't been moved.
A picture in the 2010 report shows water-stained packages marked with evidence tape. Umesh Dalal explains his investigators found leaks, asbestos and mold inside the facility downtown.
"The water damage to the evidence could compromise its integrity," he told us. "There might be some impact on justice."
We brought the concerns to the Richmond Police Department.
"We have been working with public works to make improvements to the facility and they have been trying to remedy some of the situations that have been there and we're confident that the environment is safe for our employees," said Deputy Chief John Buturla.
He believes the concerns about keeping evidence safe are exaggerated, but agrees the department needs a fix.
"We have been exploring various options associated with moving property and evidence into another facility, a new facility or looking for some solution," he added.
As with most things, money is the issue. The department has put in funding requests for the facility, but that money hasn't made it into final spending plans.
City Council President Charles Samuels says finalizing the budget is a balancing act, but this is a concern.
"There's a few core services that government, especially at the local level can provide," Samuels explained. "Public safety is primary amongst those. When it comes to public safety, getting folks either the help they need or the punishment that's required, requires evidence that's available and unassailable and it does cause concern."
The mayor presented his budget to city council just last week. Now, council will negotiate and hold public hearings. No word yet if a fix to this particular issue will end up in the final spending plan.
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