Managing a police evidence room requires great responsibility. The room exists to safely catalog, store, and maintain the integrity of evidence found in order to effectively prosecute criminals or confirm another’s innocence. With such great responsibility, comes a greater risk to make sure proper procedures are in order so that mishaps don’t occur. Mistakes happen, and in most cases can be corrected, but in evidence rooms mistakes can be detrimental to a case. The significance of professional standards is abundantly clear in a recent investigation in Northwest Iowa.
On November 10, 2020, a special investigation in a Northwest Iowa police department found numerous mishandlings of evidence and lack of procedures within the office’s evidence inventory. The investigation specifically discovered the following issues:
- Six instances for which the quantities of items listed in the evidence log and/or case files did not agree with the evidence inventory. Specifically, 49 pills that were not maintained in evidence.
- Five evidence bags that had been tampered with; however, descriptions in the corresponding evidence log entries and/or case files did not provide sufficient detail to determine what property, if any, was no longer in the evidence inventory.
- Eighteen instances where the information maintained by the Sheriff’s Office did not contain sufficient information to determine the completeness of items held in evidence.
The above report illustrates the importance of implementing strict and careful standards when it comes to handling an evidence room. With the correct procedures in place, evidence can be stored and accurately used in cases so that justice can be properly served, and risks effectively mitigated. As you start to think about your own organization, are there evidence risks that come to mind?
If so, we at BerganKDV can help mitigate those risks and test your evidence inventory and processes. Reach out here to get in contact with one of our experts. Want to learn more about the importance of standards in police evidence rooms? Check out this webinar where I further discuss the effectiveness of police evidence room assessments so that your organization can avoid critical errors.