Berkeley police department evidence room on January 17. Courtesy of Berkeley Police Department.

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan plans to tell the city council tonight that, after a five year delay, the department is working quickly to address problems in its evidence room.

All the problems identified during an outside investigation in 2006 should be remedied by the end of May, according to Meehan, who expressed chagrin at the delay.

“It should not have taken this long,” said Meehan. “We have no reason for it. There is no excuse for it.”

In 2006, Berkeley Police Sgt Cary Kent admitted that he had been stealing narcotics from the evidence room he oversaw. He resigned from the department and was later convicted of grand theft.

The police chief at the time, Doug Hambleton, asked the California Commission on Peace Office Standards and Training (POST) to review evidence room procedures. The group identified 18 deficiencies.

City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan took a look in 2010 at the progress made toward correcting the deficiences. Her report, which she will present tonight, concluded that the police department had only taken minimal steps toward fixing the problems.

But Meehan, who became police chief in December 2009, said he recently accelerated the process and the department has made major progress since Hogan’s report was released. While the audit, finished in December 2010, said the department had only completed three of the 18 suggestions made by the POST report, (Hogan increased that number to six as of last Friday,) about 45% of the suggestions have actually been carried out. The rest should be finished by May, said Meehan.

Like many police departments, Berkeley has a tendency to collect evidence and not cull items as they  pile up, said Meehan. The audit has helped the department address that and other issues, said Meehan.

“The audit has been incredibly helpful to us,” he said. “It helps when someone comes in with a fresh perspective.”

Avatar photo

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...