FIRESTONE, Colo. (KDVR) – An audit of the Firestone Police Department, conducted by Police Evidence Audits, LLC, found at least 14 sexual assault kits were never sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for proper processing, according to the state law, among several other problems.
“The Firestone Police Department is not in compliance,” the March audit said. “These cases must be researched for compliance to this statute and those kits that are eligible must be submitted to CBI for processing.”
According to the audit, under the law, a department has 21 days to submit sexual assault evidence kits to a forensic lab after receiving it from a medical facility unless the victim does not consent or if the department is able to prove the evidence was collected in connection with a false report.
“The mandate for submitting sex assault kits has proven beneficial,” the audit said. “From the suspect DNA profiles that the lab obtains from testing the sex assault kits, serial rapists have been identified, some who hover on the ‘he said, she said type of assault. Submitting sexual assault kits to CBI makes communities safer by identifying through the suspects DNA profile who is violating citizens in your town.”
“I think the best way that I can describe my initial reaction is just one of shock and frustration,” said Michael Rourke, the district attorney for Weld County, where Firestone is located.
“What that means to me is that there is a potential of 14 – up to 14 victims out there who have not had justice for the assault that they suffered,” he said.
“Juries look at our investigations, and they expect us to do a professional job from start to finish and when we collect evidence and we don’t go through with the testing that calls into question the credibility of our prosecutions on those cases,” he said.
The police chief is currently on administrative leave during an investigation for which the town has not been able to provide additional details.
However, according to a memo from Mark Campbell, the safety services director who was recently hired to help the chief review and update department policies and procedures to make sure they are in legal compliance and in accordance with best standards, the sexual assault kits are now being reviewed by a detective supervisor to ensure they are properly submitted if they qualify.
The audit, which has been reviewed by town leaders, also found the department had drugs “intermingled with general evidence” and pointed out “overly concerning” issues related to how the department verifies whether a person is eligible to have a gun.
The audit said Firestone’s current process creates the “possibility that firearms have been returned” to ineligible people.
The town manager, A.J. Krieger, declined a formal interview with the Problem Solvers, but in an email obtained by FOX31, he told the Town Board “we simply must do better.”
He forwarded the audit to town board members in an effort to inform them about the strategic planning process for the police department.
“The reports list several areas of concern; perhaps none more so than the SANE kits and the way the Department has handled drugs and firearms,” he wrote.
According to the audit, officers also failed to enter firearm data into the Colorado Crime Information Center Database. It helps other departments identify when police take lost or stolen guns into custody.
“Firearms should be entered into CCIC whenever a firearm has been seized by the police department,” the audit said. “Other law enforcement agencies will make firearm queries in CCIC; for example, when a firearm is stolen or lost. If the firearm is entered into CCIC, the agency would be alerted if the firearm they are querying is in custody at the Firestone Police Department.”
Firestone officers also were not participating in the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, a program facilitated by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives that helps police departments cross-reference imprints on shell-casings with gun crimes in different parts of the country.
“They should have been participating,” the audit said. “There has been a loss in firearm data due to the lack of participation for every firearm that has been released prior to a NIBINS (sic) entry.”
According to Doak Dyer, the ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the Denver Field Division, NIBIN has helped ATF solve violent gun crimes.
“If we get comprehensive collection of gun evidence and ammunition evidence from crime scenes, we can link shootings to firearms, and then eventually, link us to a suspect, and help us solve violent firearms-related crimes,” he said.
Dyer said timely leads help reduce violent crime. “Anything we can do to foster that relationship and help departments with that, we definitely encourage that,” he said.
“Certainly, the larger departments are more equipped for this, but throughout the state there should be avenues for them to get their evidence entered into NIBIN,” he added. “The more evidence we can put in the system, we can link.”
“Several times, there’s been no link other than that evidence, and that computer puts it together, and it uses science to put it together, and it’s been very successful across the country,” he said.
“The police department staff has been supportive and helpful during this process. Many of the concerns have been brought forward by staff, and they have been instrumental in rectifying them,” Campbell said in an email to Krieger, obtained by the Problem Solvers.
Campbell also told Krieger information about 30 different firearms is now being entered into state and national databases.