Evidence Room | Documenting the Work
After discussing how to develop a staffing formula for your evidence room, and developing what to track, and how to track the work of the evidence room, now comes the time to put it all together into a report that your administration can follow. It’s the government, and we love our statistics and numbers when it comes to evaluating performance.
As we discussed last time, defining the hours of operations for your evidence room is one thing. Knowing how many hours go into your property operation is an entirely different thing altogether. But having both sets of data is important to any documentation you put together about the operation.
It’s also important to have documentation that shows what hours went to what activities. As we mentioned before, you’ll likely need to dedicate a day every week to purging/disposition activities. In this case, it may be easy to identify the number of hours each year went to that effort. But what if there were six instances throughout the year where you had to go above that schedule. Having specific hours linked to major activities it’s critical in getting a handle on hours worked.
Hours spent on Intake is another category in this accounting to take into consideration. Special handling and inspection are yet another, where we look at the time utilized for reviewing, storing, cataloging, and maintaining things like HAZMAT evidence, bulk items, large items, long term items, items held for other agencies, and so on. These all represent scenarios our evidence personnel should be prepared to handle, but should not expect as part of their regular functions, and as such it’s important to document the need when it arises. As we document this year by year, we’ll notice trends, fluctuations, even reductions in some of the types of items we deal with, and some of the work we do. This helps us gain a full picture of what our evidence operation looks like at any given moment.
The “heavy lifting” portion of this should be done through entry by officers, but what we need to complement those entries is where those items go if there’s special handling involved, and what happens to each item. For example, when sending narcotics to a crime lab for analysis, what processing/handling must be done by evidence personnel to make the evidence acceptable for analysis? When firearms are taken out of the evidence room for analysis, test firing, and other investigatory purposes, what are the requirements of evidence personnel when managing those transfers, or tasks? In just two examples, we may be talking about three or four documents that need to be filled out, two or three people that need to be notified, new packaging may need to be constructed, and the list of things goes on. Getting an accurate picture of what goes into each item is crucial in documenting the workload.
We have already begun to touch on this in the last section, but documenting all activities is critical as well. Whether it’s paperwork for a transfer to the owner or checking out items for court, being able to document each task your evidence personnel is given in managing evidence is the third part to this puzzle of providing a thorough analysis of what goes into the evidence room. Destructions, Surpluses, Auctions, and all those disposition activities are part of this too because each one has its own unique requirements.
You might be thinking to yourself that all of this sounds excruciatingly difficult, and more work than you can handle, when coupled with the needs of your property operation. But everything we’ve outlined here should be defined in your evidence management software and should be compiled in real-time, into a report of your choosing, that can be summarized and examined at will. If your evidence management software is not providing you this benefit, then it’s outdated, and it’s time to move into the 21st century. True, you may need to review this type of report before it’s sent out to the administration, but the days of “hand counting” and having to write large daily summaries needs to be in the past. Law enforcement no longer has the time for non-automated functioning, and your evidence management software should be paving the way to ease of use for you.
Documenting the property operation workload doesn’t have to be a challenge. Annotating defined activities, items, and the types of labor support them, coupled with assigning what paperwork goes where should free up much of the effort you used to need to put into this. You should still expect to be hands-on with the report, but not nearly as much as you once were. Evidence management software needs to work for you, not the other way around. Documenting your workload should be one of the many things it’s doing for you.
Be safe out there!