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Untagged guns lay stacked in a Tupperware bin like forgotten tools at a garage sale. The real shock, though, was a neglected collection of about 200 rape kits—boxes containing DNA evidence from victims of sexual assault.

Dating as far back as 1986, the vast majority of the cases had never been investigated, and more than a quarter of the kits had never even been submitted for testing.

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When informed he would have to take a sobriety test, he marveled, “Oh wow.” Within days, he announced his retirement.

Not long after, then-mayor Irene Brodie, a tart-tongued town hall fixture for 36 years, stepped down, too. In one of her final acts, she signed off on a proposal that would allow a developer to rip up a huge chunk of town to build a limestone quarry—displacing residents of about 150 homes, almost none of whom knew anything about the plan. “It’s very relevant to separate the past from our future voyage,” he said. Davis had previously helmed departments in nearby University Park and in suburban Phoenix, and Smith’s résumé included law enforcement jobs in Los Angeles, New Jersey, and Georgia. “It’s just Robbins,” Robby Richardson told a reporter after the press conference.

At the press conference, Ward, the new mayor, parried the blows, undaunted. With that, he introduced a sweeping overhaul of the police department, including the hiring of Davis and a hotshot captain, Douglas J. “It stays the same.” Indeed, within three months, after numerous questions were raised about the legitimacy of the new captain’s résumé, both Smith and the man who had hired him, Davis, would be gone.

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hort and round and clad in his usual three-button tan suit, his hair and goatee dusted white, Tyrone Ward stepped before the raw flare of half a dozen camera lights.

The mayor of Robbins, Illinois, composed himself briefly, then leaned into a thicket of microphone bulbs that bloomed like a bouquet of black flowers.To his right, in a crisp blue police uniform, tie knotted tightly, hat trimmed with lustrous gold brocade, stood the real star of the show: Melvin Davis, the new chief of police and the mayor’s handpicked choice to restore dignity and trust to a department that had lost both in recent months.The room was hot and thick, the result of a piece of bad luck.The air conditioner had chosen a particularly steamy day—August 20, 2013—to shut down. The past few months had been marked by too many scandals, blunders, and embarrassments.That January, Cook County’s sheriff, Tom Dart, had sent one of his top aides to investigate why so little crime was being reported in this town of 5,400 just south of Chicago.The aide reeled at what she found in the police department evidence room.