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Missing cash, cocaine prompt investigation of North Slope police

Jillian RogersThe Arctic Sounder

An investigation surrounding missing evidence from the North Slope Borough Police Department is underway in Barrow after money and drugs disappeared at the department more than a year ago. As of Tuesday, the borough was in the process of hiring an investigator to look into the allegations.

An internal memo, written by the evidence custodian at the time, was sent to two supervisors in the police department on Feb. 19, 2013, stating that cocaine and cash from the evidence locker was noticed missing several days prior. The memo cites specific case numbers from which the evidence was taken and that in some cases, tags, that are used to label evidence, were found without the evidence, and that bags containing cocaine or cash had been cut open and the contents removed.

“I looked at the tags and found one that had case No. ... and had a description of cocaine,” reads the memo that the Arctic Sounder obtained earlier this year. “I was going to check that out to Detective ... but upon further examination of the bag, I realized the bag had been cut along the seam and was empty.”

In total, according to the memo, $5,395 and an indeterminate amount of cocaine were noticed missing on Feb. 13 and Feb. 19, 2013.

Officer Gary Moore has been employed at the borough police department since December 2006 and has worked in a couple of different departments, including as an evidence custodian early in his career in Barrow.

“The evidence room is not well organized,” Moore said from Barrow. “The safe in the evidence room, a big, huge safe; they never use it because nobody knows the combination, so the door to the safe is never closed.”

Moore said in 2008, after training on secure evidence room procedures at the state crime lab, he took his recommendations to the chief at the time, but no action was taken.

In January of this year, 11 months after the memo was written, it was brought to Moore by a department employee who discovered it while trying to straighten up the evidence room. Moore hadn’t seen it before then, he said.

“I made a copy and I hung onto it for a little while, not exactly sure what to do with it,” Moore said. “I didn’t want to disclose it because I didn’t know, maybe they did pull a case; maybe they did investigate it.”

Moore decided to come forward with his concerns earlier this year.

“As a police officer, I knew the importance of that memo, and if nothing had been done it needed to be brought to the attention of outside agencies,” Moore said.

“I didn’t trust that my supervisors took the appropriate steps to investigate it. By failing to investigate or try to find the responsible individual and have them prosecuted, I believe that falls under police misconduct, specifically regarding selective enforcement.”

In February, Moore disclosed the memo first to the assistant district attorney in Barrow, which was forwarded to the district attorney in Fairbanks.

According to Moore, he was told when he met with the district attorney in Fairbanks that the there was no case because another member of the police department had told the assistant district attorney that the evidence had since been found.

“When I got back to work, I re-contacted the evidence custodian and asked if it had been found,” Moore said.

It had not, according to what the evidence custodian on duty told Moore.

Over the past month, Moore has disclosed the memo to the Alaska State Troopers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Anchorage, the Alaska Office of Special Prosecutions and North Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower.

“The mayor has authorized an independent outside investigator to look into the matter,” said John Boyle, the mayor’s chief adviser, in an email response. “In addition, the investigator will perform an audit of the North Slope Borough Police Department evidence room and procedures.

“The investigator will look into all the accusations leveled towards the NSBPD as the North Slope Borough takes these types of allegations very seriously.”

A breach of the evidence-room contents has many implications, said Moore. Criminal behavior within any police department is a matter of public safety, but also having evidence tampered with could potentially affect court cases, he said.

“It was critically important that those in charge at the police department not have swept this under the rug for over a year,” Moore said. “There should have been an immediate effort made to find out who did this and that was not done, to the best of my knowledge.

“The person could possibly still be working here.”

The North Slope Borough police chief did not respond to a request for information on the matter.

Requests for comment from the district attorney were not returned.

This story first appeared in The Arctic Sounder and is republished here with permission.