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Guns, money, evidence mishandled at Newport Police Department, memo says

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Evidence including guns and money can't be accounted for at a Twin Cities area police department, according to a sheriff's office memo – though nobody is accusing anyone of criminal wrongdoing.

The purported issues at the Newport Police Department were detailed in a memo from the Washington County Sheriff's Office, which had been contracted by the police department to help with some support work through the end of the year, the South Washington County Bulletin reports.

Among the problems, according to the paper (though click through to see the full list):

  • 14 missing guns.
  • Cash and drugs that are no longer accounted for.
  • Improperly stored evidence for sexual assault cases, which could make them useless for investigations.
  • Serious criminal cases that weren't followed up on for months.

According to FOX 9, the patrol officers are not responsible for handling evidence and there's no accusation of wrongdoing – in many cases it could be poor record-keeping, not noting whether something was destroyed or kept in storage, and why.

The South Washington County Bulletin later spoke with the city attorney, Fritz Knaak, who said he doesn't believe any of the issues jeopardized cases.

Newport has a population of a little under 3,500 people, and is located between Cottage Grove and Woodbury, on the east side of the Mississippi River.

Effort to dissolve the department

In September of this year, Newport Mayor Tom Garaghty said the city should consider dissolving the police department and instead contract public safety work through the Washington County Sheriff's Office, FOX 9 reported.

The city has said the five current patrol officers with the department will not lose their jobs, the levels of service would remain the same (or get better, with a deeper roster of officers to pull from), and it would save money, the Pioneer Press reported those in favor argue.

A Facebook group called Save the Newport Police Department argues contracting out the work wouldn't save money, and according to KSTP, there's also concern about control over the police department and public safety.

Earlier investigation

The Newport Police Department's patrol officers had been under investigation stretching back to last year – it wasn't clear why.

“All I can say is that right now there is an investigation and the city is following through,” Knaak said at the time.

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