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The only money that should be on hand, he adds, is money that could be used as evidence. "But it's only a small percentage of all the monies we get. So the other monies should not stay in the police station longer than a day."
He recently assigned his new 37-year-old assistant chief, John Gallagher, the task of making the MPD Property Unit more shipshape. After a stint as an NYPD cop starting in 1989, the Queens native was an anti-corruption prosecutor for Timoney when the latter was the second-ranking NYPD chief in the mid-Nineties. When Timoney took over as Philadelphia's police commissioner in 1998, Gallagher served as his legal counsel. He came to Miami in February from the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Mexico. "When the chief told me that property was going to be under my purview, I didn't need an audit report or anything like that," Gallagher offers. "That was the first place I visited because I knew from experience they're ticking time bombs in every police department that I've ever visited."
Gallagher estimates that two million dollars still in the vault could earn the city an extra $100,000 per year if deposited in a bank account. He assigned Captain Vera, a Property Unit captain and a CPA, to implement a computerized system capable of carrying out daily deposits.
Gallagher says that the case of the missing envelopes is two-thirds solved. A PU inquiry found court records indicating money from two of them was returned to its owners. The fate of the third envelope, which supposedly contained $1000, is still unknown. Ditto for the two guns and two accessories.
"As you can see, we're still heavily reliant on paper systems," Gallagher observes during a recent tour of the unit, pointing to the wall formed by color-coded folders stuffed tightly into an open-faced shelving system. "Right now it's the way it would have been done 50 years ago in policing. It's a paper-based system. That becomes problematic because if the paper is missing you don't know if the property is missing or it was rightfully returned." Lt. Raul Cairo, who oversees the Property Unit, nods. "This system can only take so much," he confirms. "Sometimes we'll write it on paper and it doesn't get into the system."
In an adjacent room on the other side of two large bulletproof windows and a security door, two officers are doing paperwork. Behind them are three rooms about twelve feet deep and five feet wide. One holds confiscated money, one narcotics, and one guns. As Cairo begins to explain which room is which, he notices the sign on the narcotics door says "firearms" and the sign on the firearms door says "narcotics." One of the clerks gets up and begins to change the signs. "We've done much to fix the place," Gallagher assures, "but there's still much to do."