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Editorial: Cops must keep tabs on evidence locker

Chicago Inspector General Joe Fergus |  Sun-Times files

Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson | Sun-Times files

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Updated: October 25, 2012 6:07AM

L et’s see if we have this right.

Police come upon burglars loading a van. The burglars flee, and the cops don’t know where the stolen stuff belongs.

So they take it to the police station and inventory it. The cops sign off, the desk sergeant signs off. The evidence goes into an inventory locker in the property room.

Then the Evidence and Recovered Property unit picks it up, supposedly within seven days. They sign off, saying they now have custody of it.

The evidence is taken to one of the two Evidence and Recovered Property facilities. It’s numbered and placed in storage.

Finally, there is a call for the property, either to use as evidence in a trial or to return to the owner.

But the evidence — a TV set, a computer or whatever the original burglars thought was valuable — is gone.

Hmmm. Now what possibly could have happened to it? There are security cameras, but stuff is piled in front of them, so they are useless. Too bad.

An audit by City Inspector General Joe Ferguson that ended July 20 found that police employees “could not locate” 2.8 percent of items or find documentation for 3.8 percent of physical inventory sampled.

Ferguson politely calls the evidence not “adequately protected.”

And no doubt some of it is simply misplaced. But you might think of a different term for what happened to the rest of it.

Remember, Evidence and Recovered Property is the unit where Police Officer Anthony “Twan” Doyle worked before he was caught tipping off a mobster about evidence the FBI had picked up from his storage facility. He was convicted in 2009.

Any time evidence is missing, it could mean a solid case crumbles in court, turning a criminal loose.

Or that a citizen doesn’t get back his or her property.

Chicago Police Department spokeswoman Melissa Stratton said the CPD has worked with Ferguson to address this problem.

Good. But this isn’t one area where Police Supt. Garry McCarthy can let up. He needs to stay on top of it until every piece of evidence is accounted for every time.

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