Drugs, guns, money, jewelry, computers, bicycles, cars, trucks. You name it, it can be found in the Kokomo Police Department’s property room.
“There’s anything from A to Z in here,” said Lt. Dave Galloway, property room supervisor. “And we’re responsible for those items until it goes to court.”
Each month officers of the Kokomo Police Department seize more than 500 pieces of evidence in a variety of criminal cases.
In doing so, maintaining and preserving that evidence sufficiently is key.
Stacked neatly in a 20 feet by 40 feet room, the more than 50,000 pieces of evidence are kept under lock and key on shelves in the basement of City Hall. Two large refrigerators nearby hold all of the biohazard material and blood evidence.
Keeping track of the items in the system used to be a daunting task.
Thanks to technology, that process is much easier.
“We have one of the best state-of-the-art property systems in the state,” said Maj. Brian Seldon, head of the property system unit. “That’s something we are very proud of.”
Led by Galloway, the evidence system has one full-time civilian employee, Tammy Burge, and a part-time employee, Andy Richards.
Last year, the unit took in an average of 512 pieces of evidence each month making it important to keep tabs on every single item, Galloway said.
The key to the system is the use of bar-code technology to manage and track evidence and department assets, thereby saving a great deal of time and effort.
Like a grocery store, each item is given a bar code that enables the officers to track the item via a computer system through the entire process.
Each piece of evidence is identified with a special label containing all the important information about the item and its location within the property room.
“We record everything that comes to us,” said Galloway said. “Every step of the process is important to maintain the chain of custody.”
A former detective, Galloway takes pride in changing around the property system and to ensure the integrity of evidence.
“It’s not the sexiest or most glamorous job, but it is vital to the integrity of the department,” said Galloway.
The department adheres to certain standards set by CALEA (Commission of Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies), to ensure the preservation of evidence and change of custody.
Along with being locked and under video surveillance, the only people with access to the evidence are Galloway, Burge and Richards.
With limited space, purging out old evidence is also key, Galloway said.
Most evidence is kept until the case is adjudicated and then destroyed. Some evidence, especially related to a homicide, is kept for 10 to 20 years in case of an appeal or retrial.
Every six months the Kokomo Police Department destroys some evidence including marijuana, cocaine and pills no longer needed for court procedures.
In the past, an outside company provided its time and facility for this process.
Now, the department burns its own through a make-shift, 55-gallon incinerator, which saves money for the department.
Guns and other weapons seized by police are kept in evidence until a judge issues a ruling of what to do with the weapons. The weapons are then either returned to their owners or destroyed.
“For awhile they were melted down,” said Galloway of the seized weapons.
Now, the department sells the firearms to a company that cuts them up for scrap metal.
The department also makes money from seized items through a company called propertyroom.com.
Galloway explained that once a month, the company comes in and picks up old evidence that is then put up for sale online.
• Mike Fletcher is the Kokomo Tribune crime reporter. He can be reached at 765-454-8565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.