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State can’t help Metro East Police Commission without details

The police departments in Alorton, Brooklyn, East St. Louis and Washington Park call them evidence “vaults,” but “sieves” might be a more appropriate description.

The Metro East Police District Commission produced a report called Justice Breached with 140 pages worth of pictures of the woefully inadequate facilities in use. The secondary storage areas are particularly bad, with evidence strewn about, some of which has been damaged by pigeons, rats, thieves and sewage. We hope no prosecutor needs evidence stored in those areas; it’s probably unusable. Even some of the primary vaults are poorly secured and packed to the ceiling.

The commission wants state funds to construct an up-to-standards evidence vault that the four communities could share. But while the commission did a good job of defining the problem, it hasn’t put together enough details that lawmakers need to even consider funding this project. The report suggests that the former East St. Louis Police Department might be used as a central storage facility. How much would renovating that cost? What would other alternatives cost? Who would maintain the facility? And what assurance would taxpayers have that it would be adequately maintained?

Metro-east lawmakers say they want to help. They understand that maintaining evidence is critical to successfully prosecuting criminals and to providing justice to crime victims. But before lawmakers can responsibly proceed they need more specifics.