Speaking with media this morning, Asheville Police Department Chief William Anderson wouldn’t answer questions about the extent of missing, guns, drugs, and money from the APD evidence room, or when the public will see the unrevealed audit. The APD is looking for a new, civilian evidence room manager, something Anderson believes will hasten the “healing process.”
“This has been a black eye for the city, this has been a black eye for the department,” Anderson said of the evidence room scandal, which preceded the retirement of his predecessor. He said that no one who was involved with the evidence room issues is still employed by the APD. “We need to heal from that, we need to move on from this.”
“The SBI investigation is continuing, we do not have a timeline when that will be complete,” Anderson noted. “The audit report is still in the hands of the district attorney.”
He said he hasn’t asked to see the audit, and doesn’t know its contents, but has been briefed by the district attorney. Anderson repeatedly refused to divulge any information about what the audit revealed about the state of the evidence room or how many items were missing.
“I can’t talk about that,” Anderson said when asked. “We need to be very careful not to do anything that might damage the integrity of the investigation.” He noted that the SBI is “notoriously slow,” but thorough. In his previous tenure as Greenville’s police chief, Anderson did deal with issues of missing evidence, and added that “this is not uncommon.”
Of the property room manager, Anderson promised a “nationwide search” for someone with extensive experience who can review the APD’s current practices, and anticipated the search to take 3-4 months. Currently, a team of six sworn officers and a sergeant oversee the evidence room, and Anderson said he wants to get them “back on the street” once the new manager is hired.
Following District Attorney Ron Moore’s repeated refusal to respond to open records requests Xpress approached a number of local media outlets last month, they issued a joint statement calling on Moore to make the audit public. According to attorneys from the North Carolina Press Association, audits of this sort are generally public record, as they list missing items instead of implicating a particular person. Open records law specifically states that the use of a public record in a criminal investigation doesn’t automatically hide it from public view. Moore has touted an opinion from the state Administrative Office of the Courts that the audit is exempt from public records law.
Under the terms of the $175,000 audit contract, the city was supposed to receive a redacted copy of the audit’s findings upon its completion in January, but City Manager Gary Jackson has told Xpress that he doesn’t plan to press for one, and is satisfied with Moore’s handling of the situation.
The APD did partial audits in previous years as part of meeting its accreditation standards. Asked what additional procedures the department would take, since its old ones didn’t prove sufficient, Anderson replied that “I can’t discuss that.”
Photo by Max Cooper