Tempe Police Department’s Crime Scene Unit Faces Significant Problems Revealed by Internal Investigation

Tempe Police Department’s Crime Scene Unit Faces Significant Problems Revealed by Internal Investigation

An internal investigation conducted by the Tempe Police Department has uncovered significant problems within its crime scene unit. The investigation, which began in January 2023, revealed that the unit had been relying on expired chemicals and broken equipment for at least four years, while lacking adequate training. As a result, the squad leader was asked to resign due to a lack of sufficient competency.

The investigation also found that the forensic unit had mishandled evidence, leading to concerns about the reliability of their work in court. Allegations of unlogged evidence, reports sitting on desks for years, deleted crime scene photos, and a lack of consistent procedures were also uncovered. The severity of the problems was highlighted by the fact that crime scene technicians had to use a smartphone flashlight to illuminate a crime scene due to non-functioning cameras.

Despite these issues, no changes were made until a new supervisor took over in January 2023. The new supervisor initiated a six-month review of the unit, leading to the suspension of the team from collecting evidence from murder scenes and other major crimes in July. The Tempe Police Department has contracted Mesa crime scene specialists to handle the work in the interim.

Approximately 400 old cases dating back three years have been reviewed by the department, with no compromised cases identified so far. However, about 20% of the cases are undergoing a more detailed review. One man facing homicide charges has argued in court that the evidence collected by Tempe police cannot be trusted.

The internal affairs report revealed widespread problems dating back to 2015, including mishandled forensic evidence in specific homicide and burglary cases. The report also highlighted issues such as the lack of standards for processing evidentiary items, the use of expired chemicals and broken cameras, and the deletion of crime scene photos.

Laura Somershoe, the former supervisor who worked for Tempe for 26 years, declined to comment. The new police chief, Kenneth McCoy, has acknowledged the past problems and stated that the department is actively working to address them. Mesa has taken over evidence work for Tempe, and Tempe’s technicians are expected to undergo training at Mesa’s Crime Lab.

The number of cases that may have been affected by the problems remains unknown, but concerns have been raised about cases that rely on forensic evidence. The internal investigation has been cited in the defense of one man facing murder charges, and experts have questioned the quality of crime scene processing in his case.


Author: darian

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