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The case of the missing police file is still unsolved
"It's been five months since the Port Orchard Police file containing a criminal history on then-mayoral candidate Bobby Gallegos was first reported missing.But an internal investigation hasn't uncovered the file's whereabouts or the identity of whoever apparently removed it from an unlocked police filing cabinet last September.Any investigation on (the missing file) can last forever and we'll never figure out where the file went, said Mayor Jay Weatherill, who won re-election against Gallegos in November. This whole thing is so ridiculous. There was nothing in that file that was damaging to anybody. I am not saying it's not wrong that the file is missing and I'm not saying it's not unfortunate that this happened, Weatherill added. It's actually quite coincidental that it happened when it happened.The Gallegos file disappeared two months before voters were to choose Weatherill or Gallegos in the general election. The investigation, officials say, produced only unsubstantiated theories on what happened to the document.That's not good enough for Gallegos. As far as I am concerned, everyone at City Hall is a suspect in this case, Gallegos said. They (city officials) are not taking this very seriously. The 49-year-old Puget Sound Naval Shipyard worker said the investigation had been veiled in secrecy. And he said correspondence with police officers on the case, until now, has been left unanswered.Weatherill, who was reportedly questioned in the investigation, admitted there's a strong possibility someone working in the Police Department or City Hall knowingly or accidentally removed the file and, for whatever reason, didn't return it. Police chief Alan Townsend, who was hired after the incident, has developed a different theory. Though Townsend didn't preside over the investigation-then-acting chief Dave Loflin conducted it-he said he's learned enough about his new department to derive an opinion: No one really knew who had keys to the Police Department before this incident occurred, Townsend said. According to a police report after the disappearance of Gallegos' file, the city engineer, the city clerk, several Public Works Department employees, at least one City Council member and the mayor had keys to the police station.Townsend said officers were concerned about this lack of control over access, which they felt posed a security problem. When the issue wasn't solved internally, officers may have taken drastic measures. Put another way, Townsend said officers may have helped publicize the missing and apparenlty stolen criminal history file on Gallegos.Townsend said it's not standard procedure to issue a police report when a police file is allegedly missing. But that's exactly what happened. And, police reports, at that time, were regularly viewed by reporters from the Independent. Other City Hall sources, who wish to remain nameless, confirm Townsend's opinion. They say the incident may have been orchestrated to embarrass the city and the mayor into relinquishing access to the Police Department.Townsend last week addressed Gallegos' concerns on the investigation in a letter. In it, the chief described the investigation itself and what measures police are taking to ensure that files on citizens don't turn up missing again. Townsend said the department can't promise citizens more files won't be misplaced in the future. But Townsend said he can promise the department is more cautious now.Only police officers, reservists, police clerks and the mayor have keys to the department, Townsend said, while he remains the keeper of the keys. That way, Townsend said, he knows who has access at any given time. The keys themselves aren't reproducable. Some simple filing procedures have been put in place, too, he said. Whenever officers remove a file's contents, Townsend said he or she must replace the file with a red file folder with his or her name on it. Red stands out well in a sea of manila file folders, and everyone will know who took which file, and when. It's more practical than locking the filing cabinets, Townsend said. Plus, officials can now track which police or reserve officer worked on a particular police computer file. For instance, the city's computer technician can monitor access because officers are required to use passwords.Shortly after Gallegos' file was reported missing, Loflin launched an investigation into its whereabouts. Townsend has reviewed Loflin's findings.Everyone capable of accessing police files was questioned, Townsend said, including the mayor, all police officers, reserve officers and police clerks. Though the police report filed shortly after the disappearance of Gallegos' file said the city engineer, the city clerk, several public works employees and at least one council member had keys to the police department, Townsend said that, to the best of his knowledge, they weren't questioned. After reviewing the case, Townsend said he concluded the missing file isn't necessarily a security leak within the department.I'm not too concerned about (the file being missing) because the file in question contains a criminal history that can be accessed by anyone who goes to the courthouse, he said. And when you're taking 1,000 calls a month and generating reports on them, mistakes can happen. It's uncommon, but not unheard of for a file to be misplaced."