The police department of Flint MI – one of the most violent cities in the United States – reported that 20 shotguns that belong to the department have gone missing. An audit conducted on January 22 showed that 19 Remington and one Mossberg duty shotguns are missing.
According to the Flint Journal, police Chief James Tolbert confirmed the loss and expressed the hope that a full audit of the department will determine the whereabouts of the firearms. A report issued by the police shows that the serial numbers of the shotguns have been provided to the Michigan state Law Enforcement Information Network and reported as missing. Tolbert averred that an audit of his department had not been carried out for a number of years. The most recent firearms audit was conducted 12 years ago when the police were switching to a new weapon type.
An 82-page general audit of the department was released on January 26. It followed a one-year investigation of the police department. It determined that Flint police had not audited its store of evidence nor purged it of unnecessary items for many years. Once the department completes the weapons audit, said Tolbert, the police department may look further into the issue.
The weapons audit found equipment that did not belong to the department yet was credited as police property. Tolbert said that the audit found items that belong to other departments “across the country.” He said he did not know how they became attributed to the Flint police.
In addition, auditors found bags of improperly secured evidence, improperly secured and tagged firearms, and evidence that had been collecting dust for decades. The report concluded that the Flint Police Department evidence room "poses a significant ongoing liability threat to the city, the department and its employees."
The report was prepared by the Washington DC-based Center for Public Safety Management concluded that the Flint Police department had not discarded unneeded evidence in several years and cannot account for all property nor can it say exactly where evidence is stored.
The city of Flint has had a series of emergency managers appointed by the state government. Mismanagement, failing infrastructure and schools, and political bickering has sundered a city that once boasted a population of 200,000 and was a model of working-class success. The current emergency manager, Gerald Ambrose, said in a statement, "Both the police and fire departments are evaluating these recommendations and will use these as guidelines for the development of up-coming revisions to the City's Strategic Plan. We still have severe limitations on the available revenue for public safety services. These studies provide recommendations on changes the departments can use to operate within those budget limits."
The report said:
"Upon physical inspection, the consultants were astounded by the sheer volume of property and evidence that is currently in the department's possession. One member of the department estimated that the number of items in the department's possession is 'well north of 300,000, perhaps 500,000.' It goes without saying that this is an unnecessarily high number. One member of the department stated that some items, such as evidence from old homicides, 'go back fifty years.' The biological evidence room was found to be quite large and apparently filled almost to capacity. We were advised that the room contained many items 'that should be destroyed.'"
The auditors found a "remarkable number" of handguns – about 10,000 – that need to be organized so that evidence is not lost, stolen or degraded.
A proper audit of evidence on hand would be so time-consuming, according to the auditor, that a commercial property and evidence management firm declined to perform an on-site audit or provide advice for the department. A proper audit of the approximately 300,000 items of evidence would take years, concluded the auditors. Prominent defense attorney Frank Manley of Flint expressed concern over the handling of evidence and how it might affect the course of justice. Flint has long been known as having one of the highest rates of murder in the United States.
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