HOLLYWOOD (CBSMiami) – According to the Broward Office of the Inspector General, the Property and Evidence Unit at the Hollywood Police Department was grossly mismanaged for years, leading to a major theft from the evidence room.
“It was a big deal,” said Broward Inspector General John Scott. “We’re talking about over $137,000 missing and over 1,000 pills missing – all through a failure to properly manage, by any reasonable standards, the property and evidence unit.”
Scott said the mismanagement came in the form of a lack of security protocols and cost Hollywood police its accreditation as a law enforcement agency.
The theft was discovered in 2012 and at that point nearly everyone who came into contact with the evidence room could agree it was a mess.
“All of the people we interviewed all admitted that this room was grossly mismanaged,” Scott said.
Police department employees described evidence being scattered and the place bursting at the seams.
Suspicion for the thefts fell on Hollywood Police Sgt. John Nevins, who oversaw the unit at the time and who struggled with some personal issues.
According to the report, Nevins had unfettered access to the evidence unit and little to no training. He admitted during an interview with the OIG, “I don’t know how the place was managed.”
The report released Tuesday quotes an internal affairs investigation into Nevins saying, “…the Internal Affairs investigation concluded that the evidence ‘leads a reasonable person to believe Sgt. Nevins is responsible for the missing monies and drugs from the Property and Evidence Unit.'”
However, prosecutors declined to file charges against Nevins due to insufficient evidence. Prosecutors wrote that there was no evidence of money being transferred into Nevins’ bank accounts or any trail from the money in the safe to Nevins or anyone else.
Jeff Marano is the President of the Broward County Police Benevolent Association.
“I just think he was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Marano said. “If the state attorney, if Mike Satz, had the opportunity to prosecute a cop, he would certainly go ahead and do it.”
The inspector general says Hollywood PD has worked hard to improve its collection, storing and security of evidence, including adding surveillance cameras, stronger security protocols, more training and more detailed audits.
Scott said despite the improvements, his office is going to continue overseeing the changes to the Property and Evidence Unit.
“You’ve got to properly maintain evidence,” Scott said. “You’ve got to properly maintain the chain of evidence. It’s the backbone of what a prosecutor does.”
In a statement, Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez said, in part:
“The report details the significant improvements the Department has made which have resulted in best practices being implemented to properly address accountability and management. The report also maintains that issues with Property and Evidence rooms are not uncommon in police agencies.”