HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – The Broward Office of the Inspector General issued a final report this week, finding that the Hollywood Police Department grossly mismanaged the operation of its Property and Evidence Unit, Broward Inspector General John Scott announced Tuesday.
The OIG reported that Hollywood police officials failed to institute protocols that are consistent with industry standards, which led to the theft of $137,609 in cash and 1,096 pills from its evidence room.
The OIG found that there was a lack of control in limiting access to the evidence room and some evidence that was needed to prosecute some criminals was unavailable after the thefts.
The report said there were no security cameras in the room to capture images of the thieves.
The theft went undetected under the reigns of then-Chief Chad Wagner, who retired four years ago.
"They failed to implement internal controls, (and) even when they decided to implement internal controls, they failed to follow up on that," Scott said.
The 83-page report mentions investigations by Internal Affairs and the State Attorney's Office all aimed at another high-ranking officer, Sgt John Nevins, who was among the trusted team in charge of the property room.
Internal Affairs determined the sergeant, who is now retired, was responsible for the missing cash and drugs, but prosecutors did not have enough evidence for a case.
No charges were ever filed.
The confusion and lack of oversight got so bad that the department lost its state accreditation, which recognizes agencies that operate with high standards.
Hollywood police Chief Tomas Sanchez provided the OIG with a summarized list of actions and steps taken by the Police Department since March 28, 2016, when the department provided an initial report of all corrective action taken between January 2012 and March 2016 in response to the OIG investigation.
The OIG reported that the Police Department now requires two people to participate in the opening of cash and narcotic safes and has purchased a drug terminator device, which so far has helped destroy over 140 pounds of drugs.
There has also been a change in protocol to reduce paperwork that is submitted to the property unit.
"HPD has conveyed to us that they have taken 20 or so remedial steps, which we're pleased with," Scott said.
In a news release, the OIG said it is encouraged by the Police Department's "ongoing efforts to address the deficiencies raised in the final report, but has requested that we be provided with a status report in 90 days, or by May 23, 2017, regarding the PEU's progress and any further improvements."
The OIG said the Police Department has improved its process of purging and organizing evidence, but said it remains an "ongoing issue."
"The Hollywood Police Department has already taken numerous measures to safeguard its Property and Evidence Unit while continuing to identify additional ways to improve policies and procedures," Sanchez said in a statement. "In 2016, the Property and Evidence Unit purged more items and documents than were received. Other improvements include, but are not limited to, additional security cameras, increased inventory checks, better supervision and staffing, and training for property clerks and officers. These are positive steps forward."