How safe is evidence in the hands of the Memphis Police Department? A two-month FOX13 investigation uncovered serious security concerns in a building that houses some of the city's most sensitive information.
It all started when Investigative Reporter Jim Spiewak accidently showed up a day early to the unveiling of the new DNA rape kit facility. That facility, known as the evidence storage building, also houses criminal evidence.
Surveillance video obtained through a public record request shows the reporter walking in on December 8. Behind one of the closed doors we passed is where DNA rape kits are stored.
Around the corner, with no one in sight, it took us a few minutes to track someone down.
Defense attorney Blake Ballin said this raises serious security concerns.
“The slightest bit of tampering could cause all kinds of problems,” Ballin said.
The next day for the unveiling of the DNA facility, the scene was much different.
Police escorted the media back to the building. We were told evidence was inside and were instructed not to point our cameras at black curtains set up in the same area we walked in the day before.
“It's much easier if we have some curtains up, so we can funnel in and funnel out in a more systematic fashion when we have a number of people out there,” Deputy Chief Mike Ryall said.
A couple weeks later we stopped by again. Video shows our crew passing an officer on our way to a wide open door.
FOX13 showed the video to MPD Deputy Chief Mike Ryall, who has since been promoted to the number two in command. He compared this building to a precinct, but precincts have officers at the front desk and that is something this building doesn't have.
“The evidence that you speak of, and I assume you're talking about our property and evidence, that's well secured,” Ryall said.
MPD has struggled with evidence in the past.
Thousands of rape kits, sitting for years, are still being processed. A 2012 internal audit shows nearly 600 digital records went missing.
The same audit shows MPD couldn’t find 17 pieces of evidence supposed to be in storage.
The FOX13 investigators found the security guideline, overseen by the state comptroller, which says "an evidence room must be secured and only authorized people should have access."
Chief Ryall admitted we got into the building unnoticed, but he added we weren’t in a restricted area.
“If we need to tighten up and do better in certain areas in our day to day operations, we will do that” Ryall said.
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