Published July 13. 2014 4:00AM Updated July 13. 2014 2:04PM
New London - Police shredded thousands of pounds of paperwork and transported, with a police escort, 12 truckloads of evidence and assorted aged or broken equipment to the transfer station during a recent purging and cleanup at the city police department.
For at least the past two weeks, teams of officers, supervisors and clerical staff worked to free up precious space while bringing the department into compliance with various state evidence destruction orders, according to Deputy Police Chief Peter Reichard.
The project was performed after normal business hours so as not to disrupt day-to-day operations at the department, Reichard said.
The local police union president is questioning the timing of the project and use of overtime funds for a project he said resulted in a heavier workload for already-strained officers leading into Sailfest weekend.
"The timing is certainly questionable. It wasn't a good management decision," said union President Todd Lynch. "You had cops throwing away garbage on Fourth of July weekend when other cops were ordered into work … working double shifts. We always talk about a money crunch here and this operation, no matter how you look at it, costs the taxpayers quite a bit."
Reichard said the number of overtime hours worked and the amount of personnel used in what he called a "compliance project" were not immediately available.
The purging comes in advance of an annual audit of the department's Connecticut On-Line Law Enforcement Communications Teleprocessing (COLLECT) and National Crime Information Center (NCIC) systems, criminal justice databases. Auditors will randomly pick out police reports and incidents, Reichard said, to ensure information was properly filled out or disposed of if destruction orders exist.
Reichard said the department is also taking the opportunity to cross-train an officer in the property room, a sergeant in the records room and a training sergeant.
"Because we are running out of space, we needed to destroy those documents that authorizations exist for," Reichard said.
Abandoned or seized guns were sent to the state for destruction, and drugs were delivered by officers to the incinerator in Lisbon to be burned.
Evidence in some cases is ordered destroyed by a judge at the completion of a criminal case. Some evidence is held for a number of years as dictated by state statute and varies by the type of case. Evidence from cases involving a murder, missing person or a sexual assault, for instance, is likely to be held indefinitely. Other cases have time limits.
There were two truckloads of shredded material taken out of the department, including one truck with 12,000 pounds of paper, Reichard said.
Material taken to be compacted was being held in various storage areas at police headquarters and at an off-site storage location on Truman Street.
Evidence could include anything from baseball bats and crowbars to burglary tools and clothing. Unclaimed stolen property with some obvious value may make its way to an auction. The city contracts with propertyroom.com for things such as construction equipment and other items that may have some value.
"We have also come up with a system of notifications to a specific group of department members for timely disposal of property and records," Reichard said. "It leads to better efficiency, in the management of our records retention and evidence retention."
Reichard said the overtime work was voluntary and many of the people working weekends were civilian staff.