Fitting solution for a smelly situation

Seized drug money to be used to ventilate evidence room

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GABE GREEN/Press Lousie Martin, Property Officer with the Coeur d'Alene Police Department, brings out a box of drug paraphernalia in the evidence room at the department's office building off of Kathleen Tuesday afternoon. The scent of marijuana permeates the building each time a new batch comes in. The police department is hoping to use seized drug money to install a new ventilation system to alleviate the odor.

COEUR d'ALENE - The joke goes, officers suddenly get hungry around 4 in the afternoon.

More like a sweet tooth, and after being anywhere near the Coeur d'Alene Police Department's evidence room, the men and women in blue will suddenly find themselves running from the office to nearby Super 1 Foods to buy chocolate pudding and the like.

"It's just too much," said Police Sgt. Christie Wood on the stench, and the cravings it can produce.

Because the first part of the joke is the evidence room itself: More specifically the storage unit where officers stash confiscated drugs doesn't ventilate well, so if law enforcement makes a big bust, the whole building will smell it.

Literally.

"It just gives you a headache," said Louise Martin, property officer with the Coeur d'Alene Police Department, giving a tour of the evidence room on Tuesday, which smelled a lot like marijuana. "I would say the most common drug is marijuana."

Unfortunately for police, the evidence room ventilation system was designed that the air there basically circulates around the building, "a design flaw," as Wood put it, that has been around since officers moved to the site off Schreiber Way around 15 years ago.

Same can be said for the drying rooms, which sit adjacent to the evidence room and are the spots that officers dry out the pot they seize because the product must be dried before it's sorted and documented. Bigger pot busts can take 10 days to dry out, so that's a lot of time for officers trying to get work done to take in tainted air.

"I think everyone's just kind of gotten used to it over the years," Wood said.

Jokes aside, and there are plenty of them, officers like Wood have altered their schedules at times to get out of the office when the air is "thick," as officers say. While marijuana is the most common, other drugs can reek, too, such as meth, which it can smell like soiled kitty litter.

Call it poetic justice, but Police Chief Wayne Longo has found the perfect solution.

After visiting the evidence room recently to drop off some products, he noticed how bad the room really smelled. Now, he's aiming to use seized drug money to pay for a new ventilation system that would pump that evidence room air straight out of the building without circulating it around nearby desks.

Bye-bye loaded odor.

"It's the perfect utilization," Longo said of using drug-money to fix the problem drugs created.

The department has about $50,000 in seized cash, and is pitching $10,000 of it for the new air system. The department always puts seized money into investigation and enforcement programs, and has purchased equipment for its drug task force with it before, such as long rifles, cell phones and radios.

While the annual seized cash amount varies, drug violations are always an issue. In 2011, the department responded to 770 drug-related offenses, according to their annual statistics.

But it's the latest proposed purchase, which goes before the City Council for approval Tuesday, that will save a lot of headaches, not to mention retire a lot of old jokes.

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