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227 LAPD Narcotics Cases Lost Because of Flaw

From The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Police Department mistakenly destroyed narcotics evidence from 227 felony cases because of a flaw in the warrant-handling system, and is now seeking dismissals in those cases, an official said.

“These cases involve unserved arrest warrants going back six years. They involve no large seizures and are mostly hand-to-hand sales and possession,” said Cmndr. William Booth, the department’s chief spokesman.

(The situation came to light on the heels of the unrelated discovery that more than 300 complaints against felony narcotics defendants had been stored on an Inglewood Municipal Court clerk’s shelf over a three-year period and never pursued.)

Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti said he received a letter from the Police Department this week asking that prosecutors take the proper steps to dismiss the cases, but he said his office is still reviewing the cases.

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“We want to know what kind of sales we are dealing with,” Garcetti said. “Are we dealing with small hand-to-hand sales? Are we dealing with any substantial cases? Do we have a targeted defendant? Is there anything we can do to reinforce the case?”

Both Garcetti and Booth said there was no evidence of wrongdoing or criminal intent behind the narcotics destruction.

Booth said a routine department audit about four months ago discovered a flaw in the system in which case disposition cards were sent to the arresting officer in the drug cases instead of to detectives.

“These officers erroneously and prematurely made an assumption that the cases had been adjudicated, which was not correct, and they marked the material for disposition,” he said.

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