Harvard Police Department employees have been disconnecting equipment that records incoming phone calls, thereby decreasing the information available to fight crime, according to an internal police memo.
In the memo, which was addressed to all department employees, Police Chief Paul E. Johnson did not identify who tampered with the equipment or how the recording apparatus was sabotaged.
But his memo warned that any employee found tampering with the department's telephone, radio or computer equipment "will be subject to immediate termination of employment."
"Over the past week it has come to our attention that some department employees have been disconnecting the telephone recording lines," Johnson wrote in the memo, which is dated February 25. "In one instance, telephone calls were not recorded from Friday until the following Monday."
The memo says the tampering jeopardizes the department's ability to gather information in investigating crimes and in presenting evidence to a court.
"The ability to recapture information on crimes in progress, corroborating actions taken or not taken by the department, complaints and evidence for court is defeated," Johnson wrote.
"It would be impossible for any officer in court to justify the inability to produce a recording due to the disconnection of the recording device," he said.
Johnson and H. Charles Schwab, who is charge of the department's communications, did not return phone calls yesterday.
The phone problems are not the first to strike police department communications. Last December, the department lost one of its radio channels, forcing the escort service, parking office and security office to use the same channel.
Johnson said then that the loss of the channel was "temporary," although the department has yet to regain an extra channel. Several security guards interviewed in January said the radio logjam might hurt their ability to respond in an emergency.