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Audit criticizes operation of Wichita Police Department’s property, evidence unit

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Matt Lehrer, flickr Creative Commons
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City Manager Robert Layton informed the public of the 2021 audit this week.

A 407-page audit of the Wichita Police Department’s Property and Evidence Unit found various issues with the storage of evidence and with staffing and training.

It also found that evidence was not being properly documented, leading to concerns that some evidence – including material linked to homicide and sexual assault cases – could be missing.

“Conducting required routine audits can identify problems before issues become a newsworthy story,” the audit read.

City Manager Robert Layton informed the public of the 2021 audit this week.

“These are significant problems that present significant challenges,” Layton said at a news conference.

Interim Police Chief Lemuel Moore, who is retiring this week, says evidence thought to be missing could be found through a future audit.

“I don't see anything criminal from my standpoint,” Moore said, “but I see that the transition, it's looking ugly right now.

“But within that transition, when the audit is done …. you're going to find the evidence that is being claimed to be missing in the warehouse. It's just that you have to figure out what shelf it is on.”

A future audit will begin soon and staff within the Police Department will document every piece of evidence in the storage facility, which is just west of City Hall.

Other issues found in the audit include:

- Lack of properly documenting evidence

- Storage facility not properly maintained and cleaned

- Evidence not being purged at the rate it should be, leading to thousands of items being stored that don’t need to be

- Nonexistent security policy and no visitor-access logs

- Inadequate drug and money storage

- Inadequate check out system for evidence taken to court or crime lab

The audit was made public as the city is looking for its next Wichita police chief after the departure of former Chief Gordon Ramsay in March.

It also comes as the consulting firm Jensen Hughes begins its investigation into the Police Department after racist and violent text messages between law enforcement officers were made public earlier this year.

Kylie Cameron (she/her) is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, Kylie was a digital producer at KWCH, and served as editor in chief of The Sunflower at Wichita State. You can follow her on Twitter @bykyliecameron.