Evidence room changes welcome for greater accountability

The Columbus Police Department went through a lengthy process to earn an accreditation that shows it is using and meeting best-practice and rigorous national standards. Doing so showed that the department was holding itself accountable to high expectations.

Such accountability is needed again.

A criminal investigation by the Indiana State Police continues regarding a Columbus police officer’s removal of narcotic drugs from the department’s evidence room.

In September an audit of the department’s property room — where tens of thousands of confiscated and recovered items are stored, including drugs, guns, money and jewelry — revealed that the narcotics were missing.

The officer failed to return the drugs within the required 24-hour period after checking them out. At least some of the missing narcotics have been recovered, but police are trying to determine if all have been. The officer in question has resigned.

An internal review of department policies and practices that began Oct. 12 has resulted in possible revisions. One under consideration is making the property-room sergeant responsible for seeing that evidence is returned. Current policy places the burden of responsibility on the officer who checks out the property.

Without such a change, there’s not great enough accountability other than through quarterly audits, which aren’t timely enough to catch problems of missing evidence.

Embracing the audit process came as a result of the department’s national certification, awarded in late 2014. Establishing even greater accountability internally will help ensure the department employs best practices and strives for high standards.

That’s a benefit for the department and the public.