According to a scathing internal Justice Department report, FBI agents around the country have mishandled, mislabeled, and even lost crucial evidence. The report found staggering inadequacies with the bureau’s evidence collection and retention system. It found that the FBI was storing more firearms, less valuables and currency, and two tons more drugs than its records indicated.
Many of the errors are the result of the FBI’s transition to a new computer system in 2012 known as Sentinel. “A majority of the errors identified were due in large part to human error, attributable to a lack of training and program management oversight,” auditors wrote in the report, which was obtained by The New York Times. The errors cited in the audit range in severity from computer glitches and duplicate bar codes to evidence that could not be located. The investigation found that federal agents had removed 1,600 pieces of evidence from storage and had not returned them for more than four months. One piece of evidence in a drug case has been signed out since 2003. Another piece of evidence has been out since 2006, the report found.
These revelations have a tremendous impact on pending prosecutions. Even minor discrepancies with evidence record keeping can make it inadmissible in court, and the FBI was alerting prosecutors that they may need to disclose these errors to defendants.