One of the most problematic items that evidence personnel have to deal with are the various types of drugs that are logged in every day. They can smell bad, they can be messy, they almost always require lab work and trips to and from court, and they generally take up a disproportionately large chunk of our time to dispose.
I think most of us realize that drugs in the evidence room need to be handled very carefully. With the possible exception of cash, I’d guess that discrepancies with drugs in the evidence room have caused more internal and criminal investigations than any other type of evidence. They’re just so darned easy to steal! And even more so at disposal time!
How you handle drugs in your evidence room is your business, but we believe that it is imperative that drugs be weighed before and after packaging by the submitting officer, with both weights recorded in your evidence management software. Why weigh the entire package you ask? Because it allows evidence room personnel to verify that the weights are correct without ever compromising the integrity of the evidence seal.
Weight should also be checked, and noted, each time a package of drugs leaves the evidence room for any reason, and again when it returns. Finally, it is very important that the drug package be weighed prior to disposal. In fact, we recommend that final disposal be undertaken by at least two persons, from weighing, to inspection of the evidence seals, to incineration. By having two persons present throughout the entire process, there is always a witness present. Make sure all the information is logged into your evidence management software to avoid questions later.
Fewer and fewer choices exist for incineration. EPA concerns are forcing business owners to turn law enforcement away for fear of fines or other sanctions. Most agencies don’t own their own incinerator, although it may come to that if current trends continue. Assuming you have an incinerator at your disposal, you may want to consider videotaping the actual incineration.
Keep detailed records of each and every drug item that was disposed on a given day. What did the package weigh? Who weighed it? Who witnessed it? Was the evidence seal intact? Where and how was it disposed? All of this information is important, and all of it needs to be noted within your evidence management software. If you find a problem that you cannot explain, bring it to the attention of your supervisor immediately. Basically, you shouldn’t leave any room for someone to question what was done.
Your evidence management software should have a bulk update function to allow you to update all disposed items records at once so you don’t have to spend long hours updating records one by one. It should also have the ability to capture an electronic signature of the person handling the items.
Disposing of drugs is always a pain in the neck. To do it correctly takes a lot of time. Hopefully the rest of your operation is running smoothly enough so that you and your staff can devote the necessary time to do it right. Doing so will preserve the integrity of your process, your evidence room, and your agency.