Halifax police release statement about drug exhibit audit

Report from September, viewed by management in February, released to public in June.

CID superintendent Jim Perrin. - THE COAST
The Coast
CID superintendent Jim Perrin.

In response to The Coast’s cover story this week, Halifax Regional Police and the Halifax district RCMP just released a public statement on the drug exhibit audit that took place last year. It’s printed below in its entirety.

The police have also provided a “final” version of the audit as a PDF.

Attached at the end is an appendix explaining that the Internal Oversight Service was tasked on May 9, 2016, with a follow-up spot audit of the police department’s vaults “to ensure all exhibits presently in the three main vaults are properly accounted for.”

That would have been three months after CID superintendent Jim Perrin told The Coast he first saw a copy of the audit.

We contacted HRP on February 28 looking for a copy, and were told it first had to be “presented internally” in March. By April 2, we were told it was bring “vetted” by a FOIPOP coordinator to make sure it could be released without a Freedom of Information request.

It cleared that privacy barrier, but still we weren’t able to view a copy because—according to HRP public relations manager Theresa Rath in an April 21 email—the audit “has raised questions for the officer-in-charge of the Criminal Investigation Division.” Rath clarified that CID boss Perrin “simply has some questions about the audit so he can fully understand the findings and recommendations as well as follow-up required, and provide full context to you when he does an interview.” It didn’t mean, as I asked, that any form of internal investigation was being conducted about the audit’s findings.

“There’s no further investigation underway or planned.”

On May 9, Rath stated the police department would need even more time to release the public report that had already been vetted by a FOIPOP coordinator. Chief Jean-Michel Blais and RCMP chief superintendent Lee Bergerman had just received the audit the week prior, according to Rath, and they too had questions. The Coast was told the police would not be in a position to release the audit until a final presentation had been made and it was signed off on by Blais and Bergerman. Rath said that would take two months.

Around the same time, we learned HRP had already released the audit through a Freedom of Information request to an undisclosed third party. In a May 11 email, Rath stated that FOIPOP was “released in error as the document wasn’t signed off by the Chief of Police.”

It’s worth noting that the police department’s FOIPOP administrator is deputy chief Bill Moore, who presumably signed off on all the documents released “in error.” 

In any case, we requested a copy of the FOIPOP that had already been released in May and finally received it last week. There’s a couple of minor distinctions between it and the new version released today by HRP. Ours was dated September 30, 2015 while this is June, 2016. A page of recommendations is also neatly inserted at the front.

Our copy also put the dates for on-site reviews of the audit system between June 18 and November 1 of last year. This copy says reviews continued until May 18 of this year. 

During his interview yesterday with The Coast, Perrin stated the finalized report would probably be ready in “the next week or so,” but that he didn’t expect many changes between it and the draft version completed all the way back in September. That bears out in today’s release. So what makes a final report final?

“I guess it’s a draft until the chief says he’s happy with the product and calls it a final report,” Perrin said.

Public Statement from HRP and Halifax District RCMP on the Drug Exhibit Audit

Earlier this year, police announced that a drug exhibit audit would be conducted after the Serious Incident Response Team charged a Halifax Regional Police officer with theft, breach of trust and obstruction of justice, a matter that remains within the purview of the courts. At the same time this matter was originally referred to SiRT in 2015, the leaders of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division (comprised of investigators with both Halifax Regional Police and Halifax District RCMP) also acted quickly to initiate a drug exhibit audit to examine drug exhibits with respect to policy, procedure, infrastructure and personnel.

HRP’s Oversight and Risk Management Unit conducted the drug exhibit audit between mid-June and November 2015. The audit was reviewed by management in May 2016, which resulted in a request for further direction, follow-up and clarification with respect to some of the findings.  We’re now in a position to share the findings of the Drug Exhibit Audit with media and our community.

The key observations are:
Continuity: Evidence Continuity Reports are often missing important details and are rarely accurate.
—Inaccurate recording of exhibit location – the audit strived to determine if an exhibit was in the location where it was supposed to be based on Versadex, our records management system. Following are the results:
-Drug Vault 1: 90 percent of the exhibits in the sample (66 of 73) weren’t located where they were supposed to be during the initial audit in 2015; after a further review in May 2016, additional exhibits were located. However, 52 percent of the original sample (38 of 73) couldn’t be located.
-Drug Vault 2: 24 percent of the exhibits in the sample (18 of 75) weren’t located where they were supposed to be during the initial audit in 2015; after a further review in May 2016, additional exhibits were located. However, 12 percent of the original sample (9 of 75) couldn’t be located.
-Money Vault: 55 percent of the exhibits in the sample (34 of 62 exhibits) weren’t located where they were supposed to be during the initial audit in 2015; after a further review in May 2016, additional exhibits were located. However, 32 percent of the original sample (20 of 62) couldn’t be located.
—Currency: Currency, for the most part, is recorded inaccurately/inconsistently in Versadex Evidence Continuity.
—Policies: Policy is not being followed and needs to be reviewed and updated as necessary.
—Training: Training for Drug Unit members needs to be standardized.
—Supervision: It’s the opinion of sergeants in the Drug Unit that they don’t have adequate time to devote to exhibits.
—Infrastructure:  Drug vaults need to be modernized to address health and safety concerns.

  Senior officers of both HRP and RCMP have reviewed the recommendations of the audit. We’re prioritizing the 34 recommendations and are developing a road map which will be a multi-year endeavour. Our priorities include finding the missing and/or incorrectly logged exhibits, updating policy and creating/delivering training related to drug exhibits to protect both our officers and our organization. It’s important to note that we haven’t had a court case affected due to exhibits that couldn’t be located.

Further, our investigators in the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division are highly competent at investigating and solving crimes, including drug files. We also trust our officers to do the job they are assigned to do and maintain the values and integrity of the oath they swore to uphold.

We’re committed to becoming better and stronger as a result of this auditing process and the corresponding road map.

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