At a news conference Thursday, Perrin said the follow-up audit produced better results, but he said Halifax Regional Police are still looking for dozens of exhibits that may have been misplaced, destroyed or stolen.
“Ninety-per cent of audited exhibits missing in an exhibit room is alarming,” Perrin said, noting that the initial audit looked at only whether the exhibit was in the place it should have been. The subsequent audit involved a wider search.
Perrin said 70 of 500 exhibits sought in a sample audit are still missing. The police service has more than 10,000 in storage and along with illicit drugs, missing items could include “high-risk exhibits,” such as weapons and money, he said.
The officer said he didn’t have a list at hand.
The first audit was prompted by an investigation into the conduct of a Halifax police officer, later charged with theft, breach of trust and obstruction of justice in connection with evidence related to a drug investigation. That case is still before the courts.
The 2015 audit also found 24 per cent of the drug exhibits in the sample couldn’t be found in a second drug vault, and 55 per cent of the evidence in a money vault wasn’t where records indicated.
After the follow-up in May, 52 per cent of the drug exhibits in the first vault still couldn’t be found, 12 per cent in the second vault was missing, and 32 per cent of the money evidence was unaccounted for.
“Our primary concern is to find out what happened to these missing exhibits,” Perrin said.
John Sewell, co-ordinator of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, said he wasn’t surprised by what Halifax police had found.
“There’s usually not nearly enough independent oversight of what police are doing with very valuable materials — in terms of evidence and money,” said Sewell, who said he couldn’t recall a similar problem with the Toronto police force.
“They should be hiring people who are specially trained for that,” he said.
Perrin stressed that no court cases, past or present, have been affected by the poor record keeping.
“If we had a court case with missing evidence, then I’m confident I would have heard about it,” he said.
The audits found evidence reports were rarely accurate, exhibit locations were inaccurately recorded, training for drug unit members needed to be standardized, and the drug vaults needed to be modernized.
The audit included 34 recommendations, some of which have already been implemented, Perrin said, adding that it had been years since similar audits had been ordered. Annual spot audits are among the recommendations being considered.