Chain of custody. It’s important to maintain it, and the right packaging methods and storage techniques will do just that.
In conjunction with the International Association of Property & Evidence Storage (IAPE)’s Professional Standards, here are six tips to consider when overhauling your evidence packaging and storage processes.
Keep function in mind.
Evidence packaging needs to serve two separate, but equal functions—it should be used to protect evidence so it doesn’t lose its value, and it should also permit uniform storage within your long-term evidence facility.
Consult with your crime lab.
Law enforcement agencies should certainly develop the type of packaging methods that will work for them—but if you work with a state or county crime lab, consider their packaging and storage needs as well. If it’s more difficult to store your evidence in their systems, it might take longer to get the evidence tested and returned to you. Similarly, crime labs may have different protocols when it comes to biological or biohazard evidence, so make sure you check with yours to find out how they’d suggest these items be stored.
Write it down.
A packaging manual is a must for your agency—especially if you experience high turnover with evidence room employees or have a large evidence room staff. The International Association of Property and Evidence (IAPE) has a list of evidence types that are fairly standard for most evidence rooms—take a look and make sure you have distinct packaging standards around this type of evidence.
Practice the right of refusal.
Set a precedent in your evidence room from the very beginning. If something is packaged that doesn’t follow the evidence packaging or storage procedures outlined in your manual, it should be refused and the booking officer should be notified.
Know your department’s trends.
If possible, review a history of the types and quantities of property and evidence that is regularly booked into your property room. From there, it will be much easier to map out the size and location of areas for particular types of evidence. It’s also a good idea to base your packaging based on your most regularly booked items as well.
Design for your shelving.
If you have fixed shelving, it’s certainly easier to design your storage containers around your shelving. If the shelving is adjustable, consider using standard sizes to minimize costs. It’s much easier to use a standard banker’s box, for example, than to use boxes of various shapes and sizes.