Four neighboring police departments have significantly improved how they handle evidence in criminal cases, but there are still major challenges. St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said.
Kelly said the evidence rooms maintained by the East St. Louis, Washington Park, Brooklyn and Alorton police departments have made significant improvements but there still remains a serious risk for prosecution. Kelly made his remarks during the monthly meeting of the Metro-East Police District Commission.
"The current chiefs have established from a certain date going forward good evidence retention procedures, but the physical conditions of the police departments are a major challenge. There are also other areas that precede the current chiefs where there is no system of accountability with evidence areas.
"Their evidence vaults that have been abandoned for health and safety reasons. They have plumbing leaks, sewage, animal feces and missing, disturbed or unidentifiable evidence including guns," he said.
Kelley said the Metro East Police District Commission is seeking state and federal dollars to renovate, expand or establish new facilities for all four departments to share.
At Friday's meeting of the commission a resolution was unanimously passed to authorize the commission to forward the findings of their investigation to the Illinois General Assembly. The members of the commission also approved applying for funds through the U.S. Department of Justice to hire an administrator to oversee the implementation of the commissions strategic improvement plan. The current individuals on the commission are all volunteers.
"The current evidence rooms are intact. And, most evidence from homicides are stored by the Illinois State Police," Kelly said.
In some police departments, space is so small that secondary rooms have to be used. Steve Johnson, chief investigator for Kelly's office showed pictures of various evidence storage rooms.
Pictures showed evidence bags damaged by sewage, animal feces and leaking roofs. Some of them were not properly tagged in rooms not designed to be used for the purpose of storing evidence.
Recently, stories surfaced about evidence that was missing or tampered with that had been held in the Centreville Police Department's evidence lock-up.