AURORA, Colo. - An Aurora Police Department report obtained by the CALL7 Investigators blames "inadequate staff training, lack of close supervision, and lack of adherence to protocols" for the improper destruction of DNA evidence in more than 100 cases between late 2011 and mid-2013.
As the CALL7 Investigators were first to report, the Department discovered last June that 48 rape kits had been destroyed, including one piece of evidence which derailed the prosecution of a pending case. APD later expanded the audit of evidence destruction to include 455 cases in Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas counties. Apanel charged with analyzing what went wrong was originally scheduled to make recommendations by November 1, 2013.
According to the report, the internal audit group found a total of 893 pieces of DNA evidence were destroyed in 455 cases. In 32 of those cases, the evidence was destroyed while the defendants were still allowed to challenge their conviction in district court. In another 20 cases, the defendants had been convicted of felony crimes, and the evidence should have been retained for the rest of their lives. And in six cases, all involving sexual assaults or attempted sexual assaults, the audit found it is possible that charges cannot be brought because of the destruction of evidence.
The report found "there was no willful misconduct in the Aurora property unit's destruction of the evidence." The panel made several recommendations, which include creating a position for a professional civilian supervisor who would be responsible for overseeing the property unit, as well as a minimum of seven civilian employees. According to the audit, three new property technicians were hired during the period when evidence was improperly destroyed, and 19 limited or light-duty officers rotated in and out of the unit.
Department spokesperson Frank Fania told the CALL7 Investigators the department had yet to enact any of the panel's recommendations.