Retired homicide cop kept locker of evidence in home, raising specter of tainted cases

Detroit police officials are tasked with poring through boxes and bags of evidence found in a locker at a retired detective’s home to determine if the man’s actions will jeopardize the homicide cases the items are attached to.

Police Chief James Craig told The Detroit News that the taking of the evidence came to light Thursday, when the retired detective was being evicted from his home. The unidentified former officer spent six years in the department's homicide division, from 2003 to 2009. He retired in 2012.

"They were evicting him, and the moving company and bailiff were tossing items away when they came across a locker with evidence in it," Craig told the News. "The evidence was still sealed or boxed up. They notified us, and it appears to be evidence from old homicide cases."

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Craig said investigators are going through all the evidence to see what the former detective took with him.

"We're concerned this could taint some cases," the chief told the newspaper. "What if some of this evidence was never introduced in court? I'm not saying that's what happened; right now, we just don't know. But that's what we're looking into."

It was not yet clear how many cases the evidence was attached to, the News reported.

The retired detective could face criminal charges, Craig said.

"If (keeping evidence) impacted a criminal case, it could be obstruction (of justice) or any number of things," Craig said. "If he was a current employee, I could, at minimum, charge him with neglect of duty, but he no longer works for us."

The chief explained that current policy requires the Homicide Division to maintain an "aged property list," which allows administrators to flag any items not returned to the evidence lockup in a timely manner, the News reported. The department also determines, upon an officer's retirement, if they have any outstanding property checked out from storage.

It was not clear what the policy was in 2009, when the detective left the Homicide Division, the News said.

"Right now, our focus is on finding out whether any cases were tainted by this," Craig told the newspaper. "We've launched a criminal investigation and we'll go from there."

7 Action News in Detroit reported that a police spokesperson said any evidence of obstruction or tainting of homicide cases would be forwarded to prosecutors to determine if charges are warranted.

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