WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - On Monday, City Manager Robert Layton announced major problems found at the Wichita Police Department’s evidence building.

“My office learned about potential problems with the police department's property and evidence operation," Layton said.

He also talked about five phase plans to fix it.

One of the problems found in the more than 400-page audit is a huge evidence backlog. It says the building has around 550,000 items, and that it’s “increasing at an alarming rate." 

So why is the city just now making a plan?

“I don't think we understood the magnitude of it and I didn't until I read the audit report," Layton said. 

Layton says he never saw the full audit until a few weeks ago.

But, in May of last year, Chief Gordon Ramsay sent this email to Layton outlining some of these problems even saying this backlog makes it “very difficult for staff to know if someone removed currency from an evidence bag or envelope.”

So why didn’t Layton ask for a copy of the audit back then?

“Probably in hindsight, I would have at least asked to ask for the executive summary," Layton said. "But I was taking on face value what I received,”

It’s something Lawyer James Thompson says he’s already having problems with the series of events in this issue.

“I already have one lawsuit against the city from a client regarding losing evidence lost a phone that had the last pictures of a child who was killed in a car accident, and they took the phone and then lost it," Thompson said. 

But what about when it comes to criminal cases? Have there been mistrials or people wrongfully convicted because of problems with evidence?

District Attorney Marc Bennett says so far no, but he says it is a big problem.

"We've not had any delays because of lost or mislaid evidence in the last 18 months. So that tells me that while the risk is there, that that is not turned into reality."

Bennett says, unlike the sheriff department’s evidence issues back in 2020, so far there are no signs of criminal activity in this case, just very out-of-date systems and procedures that need to be fixed and fast.

“Would I have appreciated a heads up? Sure, but it has had no effect on anything thus far, and until, or unless something comes to light, that this has actually been a problem not just a risk of a problem, has become an actual problem, I’ll operate with the information I've been given," Bennett said. 

There are also worries about biological samples in cases not being stored at the proper temperature and 30-year-old security technology leaving the entire warehouse vulnerable.

The city has already started planning a full inventory of the warehouse, but expects it to take at least the next year to complete. You can view the city's full plans and Robert Layton' full statement below.