Tikoian: No cases compromised by lost evidence

Tikoian: No cases compromised by lost evidence

New North Providence Police Chief David Tikoian, left, talks with Tumblesalts Cafe server Donna Forte last Friday during one of many visits he’s making to local businesses and organizations since taking over as chief three weeks ago. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)
New chief adjusting to life as head of North Providence Police Department

NORTH PROVIDENCE – The North Providence Police Department still has 16 “high-risk” items unaccounted for from its evidence rooms, says new Chief David Tikoian, but none of the items have compromised a case and none are believed to be missing due to wrongdoing.

“I don’t think it’s anything nefarious,” he said.

Though there were previous news reports that a gun was among the missing items, Tikoian said he’s pleased to say that no firearms have been lost. One firearm magazine is still unaccounted for, according to the department’s tracking system, he said. Though the magazine was listed as a firearm, police believe it was destroyed with the gun it came from.

There are still approximately 100 items unaccounted for following a summer inventory of the thousands of items in the evidence room. Those items, which have “zero or little value,” according to the new chief, include a Taco Bell cup and a lug nut from a car.

Tikoian said ensuring the integrity of the department’s evidence room was his top priority when he showed up for work on his first morning Aug. 23.

Following up on the inventory from Capt. Charles Davey and others, Tikoian has brought in an outside expert to help run a full audit of all information compiled from the evidence room. Though many of the remaining unaccounted for items are believed to have been destroyed with other evidence or returned to owners, he wants to track exactly what happened to each.

Prior to Tikoian’s swearing in on Aug. 22, Davey said the evidence room inventory was complete and the report was to be given to Tikoian for further action.

Tikoian told The Breeze he reached out to Christine Crocker, executive director of the Rhode Island Police Accreditation Commission and member of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), and began meeting regularly on developing best practices for the department. Jane Northup, of the Rhode Island Crime Lab, is advising local officers in the audit of the evidence room and bringing enhanced credibility to the process, said Tikoian.

The new chief has put a number of new controls in place for the evidence rooms to ensure that issues don’t crop up in the future, all part of an effort to win the department state accreditation and a better reputation.

“This is going to make our department look good,” he said.

Only two officers, the property control officer and detective commander, will have access to the evidence room unless there are special circumstances, said Tikoian. They will need to have their fingerprints authenticated to enter the room, he said.

Tikoian said all the “strife” about missing evidence in the police department “may have been a blessing in disguise,” as it forced police to take a closer look at policies and procedures. He said he expects to now run a semi-annual audit. He expects to have the first full audit done by the end of this month.

He noted that none of the missing items are from the past two years, when better tracking practices were in effect.

According to Tikoian, he’s spent his first three weeks on the job mostly getting to know the department and the town. He’s following through on his promise to be visible, showing up at various restaurants, visiting the Town Council, checking in with the Juvenile Hearing Board, visiting the town’s aquatic center, and going to Municipal Court. He said he expects to go to youth sports events and other community events.

“I try to go somewhere else every day,” he said.

Members of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 13 expressed appreciation that he also showed up to wish them well at their charity golf tournament, said Tikoian.

Tikoian said he’s been surprised at the response he receives around town. He said residents generally seem to have a sense of relief about the change in leadership at the department, after years of issues.

“It’s not only the police department, but it’s affected the whole town,” he said.

Tikoian took over the department after Mayor Charles Lombardi suspended former Acting Chief Chris Pelagio over a confrontation he had with another officer in Cranston.

The new chief has initiated a number of changes in the department, including pushing officers to be more visible in neighborhoods. He said he’s hearing positive reports from the community that officers are doing as they were asked.

Police will also be working more closely with town officials on targeted traffic enforcement.

The chief said he’s forming a peer support team to help officers who deal with traumatic experiences.

Tikoian said he plans to avoid the politics that sometimes roils the town and just focus on what Mayor Lombardi hired him to do.

“I just want to run the police department,” he said.

Comments

You report to a politician and that has always been the problem in NP.