Police Department Moves To Upgrade Evidence Tracking

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

Following the highly publicized exonerations of two men who spent more than two decades each in prison before their DNA evidence could be tested, the New York City Police Department has put out a request for proposals to create a state-of-the-art evidence-tracking system at its facilities, officials said yesterday.

The department currently uses a paper system for cataloging evidence, but after the exoneration of Alan Newton, who entered prison in 1984 on a charge of rape, Commissioner Raymond Kelly created a “DNA working group” to evaluate the department’s DNA storage and collection techniques. The existence of the group was first reported by The New York Sun in August.

Mr. Newton, 45, never admitted guilt, and while in prison tried to retrieve the DNA evidence from the NYPD’s Pearson Place evidence storage facility three times, but was told it was lost or destroyed. When the head of the Bronx district attorney’s sex crimes unit, Elisa Koenderman, became involved at the request of the Innocence Project, a clinic at Cardozo Law School that helps convicted criminals get DNA tests of evidence, the rape kit was found where it was originally supposed to be stored. Police officials said either a fire or an asbestos leak in 1995 destroyed some of their records, including Mr. Newton’s, which prevented them from finding the evidence. On Friday, another Innocence Project client, Scott Fappiano, 44, was exonerated of a 1983 rape after a private facility found a pair of test tubes proving his DNA did not match the assailant’s.


The request for proposals was put out Friday, and police officials said the department is setting aside a “significant” amount of money to fund the overhaul, which would affect the storage of all types of evidence at the department’s six facilities. The Pearson Place facility, which has been the subject of criticism by the Innocence Project, currently holds 1.6 million evidence vouchers. Each voucher can represent multiple objects.

A co-founder of the Innocence Project, Peter Neuman, said at a Codes Committee hearing on the issue of NYPD evidence storage yesterday that the NYPD had one of the worst records in the country for finding evidence requested by the project. Whereas 32% of evidence requested nationwide in the last 10 years by the project was reported lost, 50% was reported lost in New York City.

“It’s part of the police department where probably they didn’t have the kind of systems and accountability they should have had, but they are coming along,” Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday.

The New York Sun

© 2023 The New York Sun Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The material on this site is protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used.

The New York Sun

Sign in or  Create a free account

By continuing you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use