We’ve talked about writing general orders, a procedures manual, and a packaging manual. Our evidence operation is well outlined at this point, and we don’t have any work left to do, right? Close, but no pot of gold! We do have some policy that needs to be written. While each agency is different, here are some basic considerations that should be outlined in policy, rather than any of the previously described documents.
Retention Schedules – For one, retention schedules are subject to change through legislation, and court rules. Outlining the various stages in policy is a best practice, because it makes it easy to change out the date cycles involved. Be it 60 days, 90 days, 180 days, two years, whatever the retention requirements are for property, evidence, or any other considerations, writing those elements in policy, and relating to the corresponding general order and procedural function is necessary.
Owner Contact – Another best policy to have in place is one that outlines how many attempts to contact an owner must be made before the item can be disposed. Typically, that owner has 30 days from the time they are contacted, and are aware of their item being available. But how can we prove they’ve been contacted? Or what do we do if established contact methods have failed? All of this should be outlined in policy, with an impromptu checklist of how to attempt contact, how often, and what to do when all attempts fail.
Proper Destruction/Removal Methods – Policy that outlines the specific methods of removing and destroying items, to include what specific devices are used (example: incinerators), if property is transferred to other personnel, who that specific person is, or their designees. In this instance, your agency may require specific documentation for transfer of property, and those documents should be listed in the policy document.
Storage Specifications – We’ve mentioned that certain types of evidence and property have special storage considerations, and those should be listed for each corresponding item, to include any safety checks that need to be conducted outside of routine audit related activity. If verification of those checks is to be documented (and it should be), how to accomplish that should be placed within this policy as well.
Destruction Schedule – This is another good item to have written in policy, which is the actual schedule to destruction of property. While you may be tempted to cover this topic in your Proper Destruction policy letter, it’s best to separate the two topics into separate policies. Your destruction schedule thresholds can change, and so can your destruction methods, but not necessarily at the same time. Continually updating one part of a policy letter can cause a lot of headaches for all involved. Putting together thresholds for destruction, by volume and date, is best to be left to its own policy.
Inventory and Audit Schedules – This is certainly one of the first policy letters that should be put together, which specifies the frequency of internal inventories, and internal and external audits. The frequency with which they happen, what personnel is involved, how results get recorded, and who gets notification of those results, should all be outlined in this policy.
This is a basic sample of the types of things that should be placed in policy, in no way is this a comprehensive view. The main thing to take away, other than the basic examples, is the type of information you convey in policy, procedures, versus general orders. They all work together, but they are covering very different ground. Making sure that each covers their own area of responsibility, and all work together to inform personnel on their expectations of work, is the biggest takeaway for all involved.
Be safe out there!