Understanding Your Risks in Police Evidence Rooms

Recently when I was looking at the International Association of Property & Evidence website,  I ran across the Law Enforcement Evidence and Property Management Guide published by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training and came across this mission statement for an evidence/property management function:

The law enforcement evidence/property function exists in order for an agency to receive, catalog, safely store, and maintain the integrity of evidence, found property, and property for safekeeping. The function allows for the effective prosecution of criminal offenders while confirming innocence; and victims may find truth and closure as justice is served. Lastly, law enforcement agencies have the legal obligation to restore evidence/property to rightful owners or facilitate the legal disposition of evidence/property in agency possession.

When you take a moment to let that sink in, you realize that there is a lot of responsibility – and potential liability – for properly managing a police evidence room. Maintaining the chain of evidence alone is staggering when you consider the protocols for receipt, storage, safekeeping, release and disposal of evidence and property items in police evidence rooms.

Here are three areas where I see the most exposure to risk:

  1. Staffing and training – the best policies and procedures are a critical component of managing a property evidence room, but those policies and procedures need to be followed by well-trained managers and technicians. Ongoing continuing education is also a must to ensure staff is current in best practices, statues and regulations. It is also important to note that any time there is a change of assigned personnel within the evidence/property unit, consideration should be given regarding facility security. It is strongly recommended that access keys/ cards/codes be changed, and a complete inventory of currency/high-value items, narcotics and dangerous drugs, and firearms, at a minimum, be conducted.
  2. Facility access – who has access to your evidence room? To ensure security and integrity, a written policy needs to be in place defining who has access and when access will be granted. Best practices include the assignment of keys to certain personnel who carry them on their person rather than leaving them in a lock box or drawer. Procedures should also be defined for after-hours access and when the public may be permitted to obtain property that is being released.
  3. Emergency and disaster planning – if you need to move evidence or property from your existing facility, do you have a temporary alternate site identified? You should also have a tracking system in place to ensure proper accounting during removal, transportation, and relocation to the alternate site. This includes thinking about your digital data. Do you have a plan for backing that information up in the event of an emergency or natural disaster?

The International Association for Property and Evidence provides world-class training in best practices for evidence and property management room management. An online course has recently been added to the curriculum and the IAPE has a wealth of other evidence resources and certifications.

BerganKDV has certified fraud examiners who can help you review the internal controls needed to properly manage your evidence/property room to help you identify any gaps in your current operation that could lead to criminal prosecutions being lost, a loss of public confidence and possible financial loss. Want to learn more about how these experts can help protect your organization? Start here.

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