FEBRUARY 2017 - IAPE Monthly Newsletter
Ask Joe...
Each month, IAPE's primary instructor, Joe Latta, answers one of your questions. Consider writing us if you have a question that needs an answer. We would love to hear from you.

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Dear Joe,
Do you know what other agencies are doing regarding the retention of vehicles held as evidence after the investigation is over and the case has been adjudicated?   We have multiple vehicles that have been in traffic accidents with a fatality, and several vehicles that are involved in homicide cases, where either the person was intentionally run over or was killed inside the vehicle.  The cases are closed yet our detectives still want to hold onto the vehicle and want it stored inside.  Obviously we do not have unlimited storage and inside space is limited.  I am looking for information on how others agencies are dealing with this situation so that I can come up with some policy recommendations.

MI. Carr


Dear MI. Carr,

The method of handling the evidence from these types of cases is quite varied.  You name it and that's the way someone has done it, absolutely no consensus.  You write, "The cases are closed yet our detectives still want to hold onto the vehicle and want it stored inside."  Have your superiors been involved with trying to resolve the issue?  There needs to be a discussion between divisions at the highest management level to develop written criteria when these vehicles are kept and the reasons for further retention.  

Maybe policy needs to suggest that the assigned detective provide and articulate reasons for extended retentions. 

If senior management (a Captain or Commander) sends a notice to each detective assigned to a case involving a car, and ask for a written justification for further retention, you may see some movement.

If the case is concluded and no appeals are scheduled, the assigned detective probably won't have a valid written reason for retention other than FEAR.  Fear of releasing something that might be asked for later in court.   If they do have a good reason, then we should keep it.  A good tool is to notify both attorneys involved that you plan on disposing of the vehicle by a specified ("drop dead") date unless they respond with a valid reason to keep.  This puts the onus on the attorneys to specify why it is needed.
Some traffic collisions may have civil cases pending, which may enable you to contact the insurance companies to ascertain if they want to store the vehicle.  Inform them to come and get it or it will be disposed of by a specified ("drop dead") date. You are generally under no obligation to store vehicles for civil cases unless under court order.  An exception might be a government owned vehicle that is involved in the collision.  

Another strategy is to have your agency's legal counsel send a letter to all involved parties saying that if the vehicle is to be retained any longer they will be responsible for storage fees.
If space is the issue, have the attorneys make arrangements for storing the vehicle off site at a private company where they pay for the storage. There are private storage companies that do this.   

Shrink wrapping and storing a vehicle outside may be an option but, is not recommended because rodents may nest underneath, and rust may form due to temperature variation and condensation. 

Another consideration that some departments use is to have the contract for the official police tow include that the tow company must provide a prescribed number of indoor storage spaces.

Another way to increase the capacity of an existing garage is to consider
stacking the cars as illustrated. All it takes is a little money!    


A newly elected county sheriff in West Virginia who told authorities he was a meth addict pleaded guilty to a felony this week after admitting he stole methamphetamine from a police locker. He was charged with stealing the drug in early January. According to Roane County prosecutors, Bo Williams, who was elected county sheriff in November, entered a guilty plea of entering without breaking in Roane County Circuit Court. The Associated Press reported this week that Bo Williams, prosecutors said, was accused of removing the drug methamphetamine from a storage area while he was still a Spencer police officer. He resigned as a police officer in December. He resigned as the county sheriff when he pleaded guilty in court. Meth was found in Williams' desk and police vehicle, according to the criminal complaint against him. It also revealed that several evidence bags found with Williams displayed case numbers that corresponded to missing evidence from the files.

The complaint noted that there was more than a thousand dollars worth of evidence involved, and Williams was initially charged with grand larceny.

County Prosecutor Josh Downey said Williams told him, Spencer Police Chief Greg Nichols, and a state police sergeant in November that he had been a meth addict for over a year. Downey said Williams also admitted taking meth from a police case file and consuming it.

"It's an example of what drugs like meth have done to our communities," Downey said. "Some people have a picture of what a drug addict looks like. It shows that it can be anybody."

This was made all too evident in an article in Vice magazine in January 2015, which followed a meth lab clean-up crew and shed light on the "changing drug habits of rural, white America." Instead of cities and towns hit particularly hard with what is referred to as "the meth scourge" and their tell-tale dilapidated and boarded-up buildings, the crew's proprietor, Jennifer McQuerrey Rhyne, says there have been only a few places resembling something out of Breaking Bad. What bothers her, she said, was that most places looked utterly normal.

Worse, children have lived in about 80 percent of the places she's been paid to clean up.

McQuerrey Rhyne has lived in West Virginia all her life and says she knows people who've used meth, "people I would have never expected until they told me. Contractors use it to stay up three days to finish a deadline."

But West Virginia is seeing an explosion in the popularity of all sorts of hard drugs, such as Oxycontin and heroin. Salon offered up an article in 2012 that named Kermit, West Virginia, as the epicenter of the prescription drug epidemic in the United States. Drug enforcement officials say that shutting down "pill mills" was like playing Whac-A-Mole, making West Virginia the "pill-popping capital of America" and many of the state's residents "pill-billies."

As of March 2014, West Virginia had the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the United States, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. From 1999 to 2010, the number of overdose deaths increased sixfold in the state.
Jennifer McQuerrey Rhyne told Vice she believed that, given what she had witnessed at clean-up sites, the popularity of hard drugs was rising simultaneously in the state and it's worked its way into the very fabric of normal life.

But asked why meth itself was so popular, she replied simply, "Because it gets you high."

Prosecutor Downey said that Bo Williams, as part of the plea agreement, gave up his law enforcement credentials.

The Roane County Commission has a month to appoint a replacement for the deposed county sheriff. Prior to his resignation Wednesday, the commission had already begun removal proceedings.

News Commentary

When we publish our monthly newsletter, we always try to include a short commentary on how the IAPE standard may have changed the course of this investigation.  However in this story we are speechless!

I've Got Something You Don't Want!
Catapult Used to Launch Marijuana Into U.S. From Mexico Seized by Border Patrol Agents, Authorities Say

Border Patrol agents in Arizona thwarted some drug smugglers and dismantled a drug catapult used to launch marijuana into the United States from Mexico.A catapult was seized along the U.S.-Mexico border. (Credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

The catapult was attached to the top of a border fence near the Douglas Port of Entry, which is about two hours southeast of Tucson, Customs and Border Protection officials said in a statement Tuesday. The device appeared to be constructed of square tubing and a heavy spring welded together, with rope tied around parts of it.

The contraption was powerful enough to sling two bundles of weed - weighing a combined 47 pounds - into the United States from Mexico. Agents made the discovery on February 10, when they approached several people near the fence, who then ran away.

They searched the area and found the drugs nearby.

The CBP alerted Mexican authorities, who seized the catapult, and CBP agents later dismantled it. The US federal agency then showed off its sense of humor by tweeting: "#USBP agents spring into action dismantling catapult used to launch #Marijuana" (Get it?).

This is just the latest example of drug smugglers' ingenuity, or more accurately, the ingenuity of the authorities who caught them.

In January, officers in Pharr, Texas, seized $789,467 worth of marijuana in a shipment of key limes. They used a K-9 narcotics team and thermal imaging to find the 3,947 pounds of weed that had been stuffed into more than 34,000 fake limes.

Last year, authorities at the same border crossing discovered 2,493 pounds of marijuana that had been disguised as carrots. It took two Ford pickup trucks to haul away the phony carrots, which the CBP estimated were worth almost a half-million dollars.

IAPE Property & Evidence Room Accreditation
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2017 Classes

March 7 - 8, 2017

March 21 - 22, 2017

March 28 - 29, 2017

April 5 - 6, 2017

April 11 - 12, 2017

April 18 - 19, 2017

May 2 - 3, 2017

May 16 - 17, 2017

June 6 - 7, 2017

June 12 - 13, 2017

June 21 - 22, 2017

June 27 - 28, 2017

July 11 - 12, 2017

July 26 - 27, 2017

August 7 - 8, 2017

August 14 - 15, 2017

August 22 - 23, 2017

  August 29 - 30, 2017

September 12 - 13, 2017

NMPET Conference
September 12 - 13, 2017

September 26 - 27, 2017

October 18 - 19, 2017

November 14 - 15, 2017

Other classes being planned in 2017

Frederick, MD

Portland, OR

Burbank, CA
Columbia, MO

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Evidence Management for Supervisors and Managers

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Property and Evidence By The Book 2

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