07/08/2006

DA to look into evidence dump in Colo.

El Paso County officials begin a criminal investigation of the Colorado Springs police case. The state AG also is involved

By MILES MOFFEIT 
The Denver Post
Copyright 2006 The Denver Post
All Rights Reserved

The El Paso County district attorney's office, troubled by an incomplete police inquiry on evidence destruction in hundreds of cases, is conducting its own criminal investigation.

At the same time, the state attorney general, in a separate review, is urging Colorado Springs officials to expand the scope of their internal reviews to make up for shortcomings.

"It's important for an independent agency to ask all the questions of the necessary people," said Lisa Kirkman, chief deputy DA, stressing that her office's probe is not necessarily based on assumptions that crimes were committed.

Police officials declined to comment Thursday.

In recent months, authorities have described how evidence in more than 500 cases was improperly purged over a two-year span. They blamed an evidence supervisor for haphazardly clearing out evidence to deal with mounting storage pressures. An internal police investigation concluded negligence, not criminal wrongdoing, was responsible.

But gaps in that internal probe have raised concerns with District Attorney John Newsome and representatives for Attorney General John Suthers.

One glaring void, according to sources: Police investigators did not thoroughly question commanders over the evidence unit.

"We have reviewed the city's internal reports and provided a list of people that we believe should be interviewed in addition to those who've already interviewed," Suthers said.

Kirkman declined to comment on what her office views as the most significant oversight by police, but she stressed that the public deserves answers after a "complete look." DA investigators began questioning officers last week, she said.

"The police have been cooperative," Kirkman said, adding that no timeline for completion has been set. "When we get it done, we'll report whether criminal charges will be filed."

Suthers stressed that his office does not have jurisdiction to explore criminal wrongdoing - the domain of the El Paso district attorney - but is investigating the city's handling of matters at the request of Colorado Springs officials. It would take a mandate from the governor or specific request from the DA before Suthers' office became involved in the criminal probe.

Related Article:
Colo. police department's evidence unit blasted
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