Detective: Evidence used to decorate cubicles
EUGENE, Ore. - Police department employees decorated cubicles with coins from the evidence vault, likely used a city computer to pirate porn movies and took care of office plants with fertilizer seized by police, according to a sworm statement filed by an Oregon State Police detective.
The findings are part of an open investigation into the Property Control Unit at the Eugene Police Department.
An April 2012 audit requested by Eugene Police found several problems with the unit, including at least 1,000 pieces of missing evidence like drugs, guns and money.
On March 12, 2013, the City put three PCU employees on administrative leave.
On March 15, the chief of police asked Oregon State Police to investigate whether any crimes had been committed.
Detective Elijah Chambers wrote in a sworn affidavit for a search warrant that he found evidence that the employees were "unlawfully using items from the PCU evidence vault as well as using department owned equipment for personal gain" and "knowingly tampered with evidence, previously lodged within the PCU vault, in an attempt to cover up poor evidence handling procedures."
To date, no one has been charged with any crimes in connection with the investigation.
However, Chambers told the court in a sworn statement he has probable cause to believe the crimes of official misconduct, theft and tampering with evidence occured in the Eugene Police evidence department.
Detective: Cubicles decorated with evidence, wrong cell phones provided to investigator
Two of the employees - Melvin Blank and Melody Runey, both Property Control Unit Specialists - were responsible for purging old evidence which no longer had value because the case was over, the detective wrote.
Chambers wrote that protocal called for Blank and Runey to try to find the owner of the property first. If they could not, they were to make arrangements to have the items destroyed, auctioned off or donated to charity.
Sgt. Lisa Barrong, who supervised the PCU in January through March of 2013, told Chambers she saw items in the cubicles of Blank, Runey and administrative specialist Christine Chudzik that Barrong believed were from the evidence locker.
Barrong said she confronted Runey about coins and toys on her desk, and that Runey admitted they were from the evidence vault, Chambers wrote.
After the Blank, Runey and Chudzik were placed on administrative leave, Barrong collected items from their desks for future investigation.
She found commerical pornographic DVDs at Blank's desk, as well as recordable DVDs containing porn. Chambers wrote that, while the origin of the DVDs is not known, Blank had access to recordable DVDs and a computer used for ripping and burning discs.
Chambers also detailed an incident from August 2011, relayed to him by Eugene Police Detective Julie Smith. Smith wrote a search warrant for a cellular phone held in evidence in the PCU.
When she arrived at the PCU to search the phone, Chudzik directed her to a phone on a tray, Chambers wrote.
"Det. Smith began searching the phone and soon became aware it was not the same phone listed in the warrant," Chambers wrote. When confronted, PCU employees told the detective the phone she requested had been accidentally destroyed and they had found a similar phone to give her, Chambers wrote.
Smith told Chambers she ultimately found the phone she was looking for in a box of old cell phones.