No sooner does someone come along and make a public mess of things by claiming big money is missing from his "Evidence Room" ... um, rather, his "Post-K trailer", than he starts constructing a pretty little edifice of defense:
In a news conference Thursday, Riley pledged a full investigation into the missing money, but also criticized Lawless' leadership of the division that stores and protects police evidence.
Notably, Riley said that under Lawless, who retired earlier this year, 12 people had keys to access the narcotics and money.
"That was certainly a problem, " Riley said. "That was immediately changed when that was learned."
No sooner does he manage to lay the blame at the feet of some retired grunt career cop, than his pretty little Lego structure starts to crumble. It seems he'd forgotten - or never learned - the major lesson of Bureaucracy 101, C Y A, but somebody else had remembered it.
The former overseer of the New Orleans Police Department's evidence room churned out a steady stream of memos to supervisors warning them that the facility's lax security and manpower shortages were a "recipe for disaster."
But former Capt. Danny Lawless said his warnings were ignored. This week, Police Superintendent Warren Riley acknowledged that about $19,000 in cash owed to a former defendant was missing from the room. He promised a thorough investigation.
In weekly memos, Lawless repeatedly highlighted his concerns about the department's solution for storage of money seized as evidence since Hurricane Katrina.
About $2 million was held in steel trailers outside of the administrative trailer used by the evidence and property division at an old brake-tag station at Lafitte Street and Jefferson Davis Parkway.
"There is little to no security, except for padlocks, to protect this currency, " Lawless wrote in several "staff reports" sent to then-Deputy Chief John Bryson, who oversaw his work at the evidence room. "Not only is this dangerous, but we surely will look foolish if anything happens to this money."
Lawless' warning, made in 2007, appeared prescient this week when Riley admitted police could not locate $19,000 that the department had seized from an accused pot dealer. The man was entitled to get his money back because prosecutors neglected to file a forfeiture motion. The embarrassing episode has made the state of the evidence room -- as well as the NOPD officers in charge of that division -- a front-burner issue for the department. ...... Lawless countered that when he was in charge, only two police officers had keys to the "sensitive evidence" room, although he kept a third key in a lock-box in his office.
Lawless also provided copies of the staff reports he wrote Bryson from November 2006 through January 2008 in an effort to highlight deficiencies in the evidence room he believed could be alleviated only with more manpower and better security.
Though Lawless said he asked to, he was never able to meet with Riley about his concerns. He repeatedly emphasized the room's shortcomings to Bryson, he said.
A spokesman for the NOPD said Riley is aware of the memos. On Friday, Riley appeared to back down from his earlier, more pointed, criticism of Lawless.
"We are not accusing him of any wrongdoing, " said Bob Young, head of the public affairs division, speaking for Riley. "We just simply stated he was in command during part of the time the investigation will cover."
Poor Mr. Bumble.
His pretty little castle lies strewn around his Press Room, its pieces scattered to the four corners.