Aspen police audit calls for better handling of evidence
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – An independent audit of Aspen Police Department procedures and policy released Tuesday outlined a number of ways to improve the way officers handle evidence in criminal cases, including establishing a point person on each case to maintain the integrity of investigations.
Police spokeswoman Stephanie Dasaro said in a press release that the department will comply with all of the audit’s recommendations.
The department commissioned the audit by Professional Police Consulting, LLC, to determine whether the organization is eligible for accreditation under Colorado Professional Law Enforcement Standards, a strategic goal set by the city, Dasaro said.
The department’s procedures came under scrutiny in a recent case in which defense lawyers said police botched a sexual assault investigation by mishandling evidence. Defendant Emanuel Gonzalez-Loujun of Carbondale was accused of raping a woman outside an Aspen apartment complex in January 2009.
Gonzalez-Loujun struck a plea deal in late May after a hung jury was unable to convict him of sexual assault. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison for cocaine possession and intent to distribute, as well as a reduced charge of criminal attempt to commit sexual assault.
The audit was announced soon after.
Dasaro said the case was not the main reason the department commissioned the audit, but said it will help the department determine whether it had made mistakes in the Gonzalez-Loujun case.
“The audit will help us say, ‘Did we do a bad job?'” Dasaro said.
She said the department is happy with the outcome of the investigation and the trial.
“Justice was served,” she said, adding that the defense was simply doing its job in implying police mishandled the investigation. “Just because they say we did it wrong doesn’t mean we did it wrong.”
Police Chief Richard Pryor was not available for comment, but said in a statement released along with the report that the “audit will help us improve our professionalism and enhance our services to the community.”
Despite the 10 recommendations to better the way it operates, auditors noted in the report: “The evidence room is kept in a neat and orderly fashion; the inventory is exceptionally well-organized for easy retrieval.”
Accreditation with state police standards is one of myriad strategic goals the city wishes to complete in the next few years.
Other suggestions in the audit included better labeling and packaging of evidence and additional training for officers who handle evidence.
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