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EVIDENCE WITHHELD? ITEMS SEIZED BY LAPD OFTEN DON'T MAKE IT BACK TO RIGHTFUL OWNERS.



Byline: Lisa Van Proyen Staff Writer

As much as 36 percent of the evidence that Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850.  police collected last year ended up marked for destruction or auction, even though the owners could have been found, the Daily News has learned.

Police officials said Friday the problem is a result of antiquated computers, crowded and unorganized evidence warehouses and overworked personnel who lack training.

``It's a bit of a Herculean task,'' said Cmdr. David Kalish, the department's top spokesman. ``We have an obligation to attempt to return it to the rightful owner. We need to take a look at systems issues to re-engineer and improve our service level and training.''

According to according to
prep.
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

3.
 an internal police memorandum obtained by the Daily News, an audit found 13,246 items were returned to owners in 1999, some were kept as evidence, and 36 percent was destroyed or sold at auction. Police declined to release the audit or provide additional details.

Common items include cell phones, pagers, computers and jewelry. Others range from evidence from the infamous ``Black Dahlia'' murder case from 1947 to a dozen commercial sewing machines from a trademark infringement case.

Defense attorneys said the Los Angeles Police Department "LAPD" and "L.A.P.D." redirect here. For other uses, see LAPD (disambiguation).

This article or section is written like an .
 routinely fails to return property.

``When a cop seizes property from you, unless it's contraband or evidence in a pending case, they have to give it back to you. Instead, it goes down a sinkhole sinkhole
 or sink or doline

Depression formed as underlying limestone bedrock is dissolved by groundwater. Sinkholes vary greatly in area and depth and may be very large.
 and it disappears,'' said Don Cook, a Los Angeles attorney who specializes in police abuse cases.

In one case, he said, police entered a home in search of a man but took an exercise bar from his father, an amputee am·pu·tee
n.
A person who has had one or more limbs removed by amputation.
. ``The cops seize it, claiming that he was trying to use it as a weapon.''

The amputee was not charged, but it took six months and two demand letters from Cook to get back the bar. ``The only reason why he got it back was because an attorney was asking for it back.''

Kalish conceded the department has failed to meet its obligation, although he said only 27 percent of evidence is not returned. The remaining 9 percent involved credit cards that were reissued and license plates returned to the Department of Motor Vehicles In the United States of America, Department of Motor Vehicles (or DMV) is a commonly used name of the government agency of a U.S. state which administers the registration of automobiles (e.g., by issuing license plates), and/or the licensing of drivers (e.g. , he said.

``Still, that's not acceptable,'' Kalish said. ``Because we're concerned, an operations committee has been formed. We're looking at more training.''

Kalish noted that each arrestee ARRESTEE, law of Scotland. He in whose hands a debt, or property in his possession, has been arrested by a regular arrestment. If, in contempt of the arrestment, he shall make payment of the sum, or deliver the goods arrested to the common debtor, he is not only liable criminally for  and victim is given a receipt for booked items. ``All you have to do is go to the front desk and you'd get it back.''

Not true, Cook said.

``We have people who have gone down asking for their property back and they have all kind of hoops to jump through. It's clear that the cops see no obligation to return the property. They have not really enforced any procedure for the right for the people to get their property back,'' he said.

The May 1, 2000, memorandum stemmed from an LAPD 1. LAPD - Link Access Procedure on the D channel.
2. LAPD - Los Angeles Police Department.
 Property Disposition Audit from May 1999. It showed that since at least 1996, the rate of return has not markedly improved.

Lt. Winthrop Taylor, who headed the audit, said chief among the problems is tracking the evidence through at least three computer systems operated independently by the LAPD and the courts.

``They don't talk to one another,'' Taylor said.

Often, the entire text of the evidence report is not in the computer, requiring detectives and civilians to research the ownership, Taylor said. And frequently, the person listed in possession of the item is not the owner, requiring even more work.

``We have to do a better job to provide the critical information to the decision-makers,'' Taylor said.

An officer in the San Fernando Valley San Fernando Valley

Valley, southern California, U.S. Northwest of central Los Angeles, the valley is bounded by the San Gabriel, Santa Susana, and Santa Monica mountains and the Simi Hills.
, who asked not to be identified, said he simply does not have the time to document names and addresses on each and every piece of evidence after making a large seizure.

``It makes you batty and you're running up overtime writing up the reports. Your supervisor asks you what's taking so long, so you take shortcuts See Win Shortcuts.  and omit addresses or put ditto marks for a name,'' the officer said.

Sometimes, when judges order the property released, the information never makes it to the LAPD's computers, Taylor said.

``We're supposed to notify that arrestee to come pick up his stuff. I don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)

"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party.
 whether we're doing that,'' Taylor said.

And then you've got the cases where owners don't want the property back - even though they are valuable. Perhaps, police said, the owners don't want further contact with officers.

Peterson said the department has repeatedly tried to return 6-foot-long models of ships from an arson investigation to the rightful owner - to no avail.

``We get everything here, from soup to nuts "Soup to nuts" is an English idiom conveying the meaning of "from beginning to end". It is derived from the description of a complete meal, whose courses range from soup to a dessert of nuts. , drugs, guns and bloody sheets,'' said David Peterson, commanding officer of the LAPD's Property Division.

Generally, the LAPD returns items to owners within 90 days after they're stored at one of the department's 19 warehouses, so long as they're not deemed illegal, Kalish said. Otherwise they are incinerated, crushed, thrown out or auctioned off - with the city receiving about $100,000 annually from the sales.

Guns, knives and other steel items are placed into a 3,200-degree furnace at a fabrication fabrication (fab´rikā´shn),
n the construction or making of a restoration.
 plant and melted into rebar re·bar  
n.
1. A rod or bar used for reinforcement in concrete or asphalt pourings.

2. A group of such rods forming a grid.



[re(inforcing) bar.]
, largely used in the construction of the high-speed rail project in the Alameda Corridor, Peterson said.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Property room supervisor Steve Horne surveys some of the thousands of items of evidence at the LAPD Van Nuys Division.

Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 9, 2000
Words:909
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