How to handle biohazards, blood, and urine samples in the evidence room

How to handle biohazards, blood, and urine samples in the evidence room

Unfortunately, police officers and evidence custodians have to handle biohazard materials such as blood and urine from time to time, in and outside the evidence room. Following strict rules and procedures when handling such materials not only will protect your health, it will also protect other personnel handling the same items multiple times, as this type of evidence tends to move around a lot to various labs and courts before it is eventually disposed. Each law enforcement agency, no doubt, has rules and procedures concerning the handling of biohazard materials. What follows are simply suggestions.

Never handle biohazards without wearing protective gloves. If appropriate, consider a mouth cover, an apron, and eye protection. Always cover any open cuts or wounds. Red label all biohazard items like blood, urine, and semen with clear large font “Biohazard” labels. Wet evidence items must be air dried before packaging. Using dry heat can damage any potential DNA evidence. Known DNA evidence should also be air dried and kept in a dark, climate controlled environment.

Some evidence samples are refrigerated or frozen instead of drying.  When in doubt, consult your local crime laboratory for specific handling and packaging suggestions. Readily available, blood sample kits should be used whenever possible. Complete the report inside the kit before handing the kit to the hospital personal. Fill out as much information as you can on the report, including a list of suspected drugs or alcohol. If possible, have the suspect sign the consent form. Use the integrity seal stickers to seal the kit after filling the tube, and don’t forget to initial and date. The sample should, as soon as is possible, be placed in a refrigerator inside the property room. Enter all relevant data into your evidence management system.

As with blood, there are special kits available for taking urine and semen samples. Use of these kits is strongly encouraged. Use the included integrity seal stickers to seal the sample after filling the tube, and always initial and date them. Secure the sample inside a refrigerator in the property room and save all the data into your evidence management system. Semen samples should be placed in the freezer.

Sexual assault kits, also commercially available, are highly recommended for the collection and preservation of evidence in sexual assault cases. Consult your local laboratory as to whether or not these kits should or should not be refrigerated.