The Metro Nashville Police Department's Evidence Storage Division Officers Allen Bates, left, and Brian Murphy loaded more than 10 tons of narcotics into a large enclosed truck on June 8, 2022. The narcotics were incinerated. Metro Nashville Police Department photo.
So, what do cops do when they’ve got 10 tons of meth, cocaine, LSD, and other narcotics stuffing an evidence warehouse for 15 years?
In Tennessee, they destroy it with fire!
The Nashville Police Department’s Evidence Storage Division hauled it to a “waste management facility” that specializes in incinerating dangerous material — they won’t say where — on June 8, and it all went up in smoke.
“There is a sense of reward in that they’re gone,” Lt. Frank Ragains, the manager of the property and evidence team, told Coffee or Die Magazine. “How many lives did we save by taking these drugs off the streets? I mean, I guess that’s kind of the bottom line. That’s what we’re here for.”
The Metro Nashville Police Department - Evidence Storage Division transported more than 10 tons of narcotics to an undisclosed location where the drugs were incinerated on June 8, 2022. Metro Nashville Police Department photo.
And while he’s happy to make sure narcotics turn into ash, Ragains wants the spotlight to remain on the cops who took it all off the street in the first place.
“I gotta give credit to those guys because they are doing it, and my role, even way back when, was just to make sure that it was packaged and sealed right or safely stored so we can go to court,” Raigains said.
The problem is that there’s apparently a lot of drugs coming in. Walking through his warehouse after the narcotics were removed, Ragains noticed it didn’t make that big of a dent in the space he manages.
“You can’t even tell it was gone,” he said. “I mean, that’s the scary part. Ten tons of drugs and stuff gone, and our warehouse is so full that you didn’t even know it was gone.”
A May 20, 2022, undercover narcotics operation by Specialized Investigations Division detectives in the downtown area led to the arrests of three men allegedly involved in the sale of cocaine laced with fentanyl. Authorities jailed Khalil D. Smith, 26, Nesean Thompson, 22, and Michael E. Terry, 26. Metropolitan Nashville Police Department photo.
Ragains chalked the steep stacks of dope up to an increase of drugs coming into the facility, plus staffing woes caused by COVID-19 and retirements.
He’s passionate about warehousing. Ragains spent 11 years managing Nashville’s crime scene unit, and after graduate study in forensic administration, he came over to the Evidence Storage Division and began revamping the warehouse.
As a CSU investigator, he knew that time itself changes evidence. While detectives on the street battle drug lords, he combats the lack of space, the long toll of time, and natural biological decay to preserve evidence for court.
An improperly stored parcel can destroy a prosecution. Poor record-keeping can mean a rapist or murderer will never be found.
“That’s why knowing what you have — and knowing the best practices of storing that — is so critical,” Ragains said.
Prosecutors say Nashville man Randall Merryman was distributing about 1 pound of meth and 1 pound of heroin per week before his late-2021 arrest, cementing his role as a drug trafficker to West Nashville’s homeless camps. Metropolitan Nashville Police Department photo.
Each piece of evidence in Ragains’ warehouse gets a special barcode and then a spot in one of two parts of the facility — a space that’s environmentally controlled, and one that’s not.
He estimates there’s nearly 1 million pieces of seized evidence and property under his watch. And when his crew can destroy, auction off, or otherwise get rid of a package, they do. But that’s usually only after a legal case has been adjudicated or the statute of limitations on a crime has expired.
To economize space, Ragains is transitioning electronic storage devices to secure servers. He’s also studying how other agencies and the private sector have engineered their storage spaces, including online how retailing giant Amazon does it.
“I mean, to think about how much inventory they move and manage. They got it all coming in and moving out, all at the same time,” Ragains said. “I would love to go over there and go, ‘Wow, is this how you do it?’ and just take notes and come back and say, ‘This is how we’re supposed to be doing it.’”
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Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion.
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