Today we discuss one of the trickiest parts of any operation, especially in an evidence room. No matter how often this topic is discussed, no matter how much knowledge we put into it, there always is an appearance in gaps relating to staffing. We’ll try to explore a few ways of addressing the problem of staffing, to minimize those concerns, with manpower that remains consistent for the needs of your evidence room.
Virtually all organizations involved in professional evidence management agree that a single evidence/property officer, under normal (think “routine”) circumstances can handle between 6,000 and 7,000 pieces of evidence in each year, accurately. Anything above that, and room for error will become your normal, and that’s not a good thing. This premise assumes a couple of other conditions: the officer is not assigned to other tasks, like quartermaster, fleet, and maintaining general agency supplies.
You can expect that on average, it will take your evidence personnel 45 minutes to process one case, from intake, to storage, to transfers, to disposition. If you take the average amount of hours worked by the typical, full-time employee in each year, 2,032, and divide that by 0.75 (representing 45 minutes), and you’ll arrive at the number: 2,709, which represents the amount of cases that your officer can process into the evidence room. Further, if we take the average number of items per case, 2.75, we find that the average amount of items in the given caseload is 7,449.75, which we’ll round up to 7,500. What you should be getting from this exercise is that you likely need two people involved in the evidence room at a minimum, because as you see by our formulas, we’ve not truly factored in purging, which is a vital function to keeping your evidence room organized. Purging items, even those record for destruction, require special documentation, additional steps, and we’ve only focused on intake, storage, and the initial disposition process.
If your agency volume is smaller than what the number above suggest, take your Calls for Service data from the previous three years, and take your case data from the same period. For each year, solve how many calls your agency averages per case opened. Then, apply the same math we outlined above to each set of annual numbers. You should notice whether you have an upward, or downward trend with calls and cases. If it’s going up, then you can formally predict that you will have an increase in evidence, and thus will need to consider your evidence room personnel choices.
There are a few different priorities that need to be addressed in creating your schedule for the evidence room, and addressing your manpower needs. First, we mentioned the need for purging to be a major part of the equation. Any agency should be dedicating a significant portion of the evidence room operation to the entirety of purging. If you plan to operate a Monday through Friday schedule with standard business hours, it would be a best practice to dedicate one of those days exclusively to purging, with the evidence room being closed to all other business.
Once you’ve established that, the next priority is the “standard business hours” we mentioned earlier. Are standard business hours 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, 7:00 am to 4:00 pm, or 9:00 am to 6:00 pm? Maybe you take the hour out, and make it a straight eight with the lunch period taken at will? The point is you must make some decisions regarding your evidence room, and the availability it will have to handle both law enforcement business, and public business.
Once you have the hours of operation set, you’ll need to decide if you want all your staff working at the same time, if you want them to split shifts, or overlap, or cover alternating shifts. As an example, if your evidence room requires one full-time employee, and one part-time employee, it may be beneficial to have your part time employee come in for the second half of every day the evidence room is open, to help power through the tasks at hand, and getting closure on whatever the day brought in. Still another method might be to bring them in the day before purging, as well as the purge day, so that they can get that part ready ahead of the day, and then help execute the plan, to make things move quicker.
There may be other considerations for your agency’s evidence operation, these are the most basic. Once you’ve answered these key questions, you can begin to put everything else into place.
Scheduling and manpower doesn’t have to be a difficult process. With some basic math applied, along with a few guiding premises, we can quickly establish the needs of any agency, and how to go about accomplishing their specific needs.
Be safe out there!