The audit of the Asheville Police Department’s Evidence Room:
When news broke in early 2011 that a significant number of sensitive items — drugs, guns and money — was missing from the Asheville Police Department’s Evidence Room, a public-records battle began.
Now, more than three years later, that struggle has been resolved. A full copy of the extensive but incomplete audit of the room is finally available — in the North Carolina Room on paper, and online via digital copies published by Carolina Public Press [http://www.carolinapublicpress.org/19694/document-the-asheville-police-department-evidence-room-audit].
(Full disclosure: I work as a reporter and editor for CPP, an Asheville-based news service, and volunteer on the board of the Friends of the North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library.)
Asheville City Council commissioned the audit, a review of what might have been stolen from the room, soon after the scandal erupted. It cost $175,000 in public funds, and wound up finding that we’ll probably never know just how much evidence was pilfered, given the extent of the disarray in the evidence room.
We learned that only recently, as the audit was off-limits to the public for about three years. After the recent sentencing of former APD Evidence Room Manager Lee Smith, who pled guilty to stealing drugs and is slated to serve 10 months in federal prison, Buncombe District Attorney Ron Moore released the document.
Some backstory over the public-records issues: In 2012, a coalition of local media outlets, with CPP leading the effort, sued both the district attorney and the city of Asheville in an attempt to make the audit public. That legal challenge failed, except to the extent that it raised public awareness about the lack of official openness about a key local law enforcement controversy.
Now, the audit is available for all to see. It’s a lengthy, complicated document, spanning 15 volumes and some 4,000 pages. For those with an interest in what it reveals, I suggest starting with a close read of volume 1, which offers an overview of much of what’s in the audit.
Post by Jon Elliston
Jon Elliston is a writer and editor for Carolina Public Press and WNC magazine.