Police - of all people - should follow the law, but that's not always the case. In fact, police in every county in the NBC29 viewing area have been breaking a law related to records of drug destruction for years.
The law requires police agencies to report drug destruction to the Virginia Board of Pharmacy but not all police agencies are following the statute in the state code. It says police departments and sheriff's offices are required to notify the state of how and when they destroy narcotics seized from the streets.
We obtained records from the Board of Pharmacy, the agency charged with keeping the records, showing which police agencies reported drug destruction to the board from 2012 through April 29 of this year. Albemarle, Augusta, Culpeper, Greene, Orange, Louisa, Madison and Fluvanna counties didn't make the list; neither did the city of Charlottesville.
We reached out to police departments across our viewing area to find out why they weren't complying with the law. The answer was the same across the board: they didn't know they weren't.
Albemarle County Police Colonel Steve Sellers stated, "Why haven't we been reporting on that form? I was unaware of it, and apparently so was my staff."
Of the hundreds of law enforcement agencies in the commonwealth, in 2012 only 29 reported drug destruction records to the board - so far in 2013 only 32 have. The Williamsburg Police Department is one of them.
Major Greg Riley of the Williamsburg Police Department stated, "It's something we do because it's required by the law."
Their property and evidence custodian handles the paperwork. "Once he gets that destruct order from the commonwealth's attorney he just simply makes a copy of that destruct order and sends it off to the Board of Pharmacy for them to have a record," Major Riley said.
So how does something so simple fall through the cracks? We asked the Virginia Board of Pharmacy why police agencies are not complying. The board would not go on camera, but said that while it keeps those records, the board has no power to enforce the law.
9th District Senator Donald McEachin (D) proposed a bill during the 2012 General Assembly that would make Virginia State Police the collectors of the records rather than the Board of Pharmacy. McEachin says the bill, which didn't pass, would have filled in the communication gap between the board and police agencies.
McEachin said, "My thought was that if a sister agency, like the state police, was the repository they would reach out to the localities and make sure that the information flow was appropriate."
Charlottesville police say they didn't know about the law until we came to them. Now they say they are backtracking and sending old drug destruction documents to the Board of Pharmacy.
"We'll go back and begin to pull all those documents from this year and the preceding year that would actually fulfill the requirements," Lt. Ronnie Roberts of the Charlottesville Police Department stated. "We're all being human and somewhere along the way the ball was dropped."
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