Adopting the Evidence Auto-Disposition Mind-Set
June 19, 2019
The final link in the evidence custody chain is disposition. Proper evidence disposition is crucial to the integrity of the evidence custody chain as a whole. Based on location, and the local laws, there are different rules about the proper time to destroy, or return, evidence in cases.
Some law enforcement agencies say that evidence should be maintained until the offender(s) in the case are sentenced. Others insist that the evidence be maintained for several years so that all appeals in the case can be exhausted. Whatever the policy, the disposition should be documented in an evidence tracking system – such as Tracker Products – and all chain of custody forms should be retained.
With a mountain of cases – all of which are at different stages in the legal process – it can be difficult to know when to follow up. The old way of manually managing and disposing of evidence is not only ineffective, but it also contributes to bloated facilities; loaded with unnecessary evidence, that require additional, and expensive, storage solutions. For most Evidence Managers, it becomes even more overwhelming and unmanageable in time.
That’s where Auto Disposition can help; this digital solution helps organizations by assigning a follow-up date (you supply the parameters in setup) to each case. On the day that the Case comes up for review (Review Date = today), the system will automatically create a Task for the Case Officer. The Case Officer will use this Task to communicate information about the Case.
That Task will then be used and recorded so that all discussion back and forth will be documented to help move an Item towards disposition. Through this process, far more evidence can be disposed of than manual or paper-driven processes. In the task, you can either…
- Push a Case further down the road – If the User responds to the Task and says that there is nothing to do at this time, then update the Case Review date to a future date. On that future date, another Task will be sent out asking for an update. This process will continue until the Case is closed.
- Tags – If the User says that it is ok to get rid of Item(s) in a case, you are going to want to Tag that item for destruction. You will edit the individual Item, or Mass Update many Items, and apply a Tag. The Tag text can be anything you choose but this Tag will be used later for searching.
If you decide to use Auto Disposition for your agency, be aware you may receive a certain level of resistance and complaints. This is especially true if you are going from a system where people generally are not required to do anything, to a system where people are held accountable for the evidence they submit. Make sure you have backing from command and that your Users can’t just ignore these requests for updates on cases. Meaning, if they can just ignore your request, the entire process is doomed before you even get started.
Keep in mind, it may take roughly 90 days to build up a habit. Don’t quit after two weeks because you get some complaints. Keep with it until you establish a discipline. After 90 days this will become ‘part of the process’ and your users will naturally comply. Remember that when you are changing the way you do business, it takes time.
This is the second post in a series on the topic of Auto Disposition.
Our SAFE evidence tracking software is more than just barcodes and inventory control, this Tracker Product is an end-to-end chain of custody software for physical and digital evidence, resolving each of the critical issues facing evidence management today.
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