EMI Standards and Best Practices

Chapter 1 – Organization, Personnel and Training

Purpose

Sustainable evidence management operations require stable organizational conditions, competent and adequate staffing and effective training programs to ensure success. Implementation and adoption of the Organizational, Staffing and Training standards and practices recommended by the Evidence Management Institute promotes a stable organizational baseline for sustainable evidence management.

Scope

  • Organizational Structure Standards and Best Practices
  • Personnel Standards and Best Practices
  • Evidence Personnel Training Standards and Best Practices
  • Organizational Training Standards and Best Practices

Definitions

Evidence Management Unit: Generic term used to describe the work unit responsible for the submission, processing, storage, release and disposition of agency property and evidence. Can be used interchangeably to describe any unit with similar responsibility regardless of agency title. Common related industry term: property and evidence unit.

Organizational Placement: Refers to the organizational structure within an agency and the relationship of the evidence management unit with the organizational structure.

Line Staff: Personnel level with no or limited supervisory responsibility within the unit.

Supervisory Staff: Personnel level with established supervisory responsibility and authority over line staff personnel.

Management Staff: Personnel level with established responsibility and authority over supervisory staff personnel. For the purposes of this document, management staff typically includes command rank designations.

Executive Staff: Personnel level with established responsibility and authority over management staff personnel. For the purposes of this document, executive staff typically includes the chief executive over the agency and immediate executive level assistant positions.

Sustainable Evidence Operations: Refers to an agency where evidence management operations include the safe, secure, efficient, effective and routine performance of all essential evidence management and accountability elements, consistent with industry and statutory standards, and operate with a consistent balance of evidence intake and disposition.

Train to Competency: Training standard that combines an established set of competency criteria for the performance of job related tasks and skills with an evaluation of mastery of those criteria through documented observation or examination.

Chapter I. Organization, Personnel and Training

Standard 1 – Organizational Structure Standards

Organizational Placement

  1. Evidence management units should operate and be managed independently of enforcement of investigative functions of a law enforcement agency.

Practice 1 – Organizational Structure Best Practices

Organizational Placement

  1. In an agency divided into bureaus or divisions, the ideal organizational placement for an evidence management unit would be under administrative or management services, or similar organizational structure.
  2. To avoid competing interests which may conflict with the primacy of a secure chain of custody, agencies should avoid placement of the evidence management function within an agency under enforcement or operations services structures, or under investigative services structures.

Practice 2 – Personnel Standards

Adequate Staffing

  1. Evidence management units should be staffed with sufficient personnel to perform all essential evidence management functions required by the agency.

Pre-assignment Background Checks

  1. Agencies should conduct comprehensive background investigations on all evidence management personnel prior to any assignment to an evidence management unit.

Practice 2 – Personnel Best Practices

Job Descriptions

  1. For each position within an evidence management unit, the agency should develop and publish a complete job description, detailing position duties and responsibilities. The job description should include employee competencies and required knowledge and skills for job performance.

Job Responsibilities, Line Personnel

Common job responsibilities for evidence management line personnel may include:

  1. Receives property submitted into the custody of the evidence management unit as evidence or property.
  2. Reviews property submission documentation for accuracy against submitted evidence.
  3. Documents and maintains accurate chain of custody records for all property or evidence in the custody of the evidence management unit from the initial submission through final disposition of the item.
  4. Maintains and updates evidence management unit Standard Operating Procedures, logs, forms, databases, and automated computer tracking system.
  5. Prepares documentation of records and logs of property and evidence activities.
  6. Inspects packages and labels property and evidence for compliance with established standards for preservation, labeling and storage of all items in the custody of the evidence management unit.
  7. Stores property and evidence following established standards to ensure for timely access and location of all items.
  8. Ensures that all packaged property or evidence submitted adheres to established standards.
  9. Maintains the organization and cleanliness of all property facility storage areas to ensure timely access and location of property items.
  10. Handles and deposits currency following established procedures and guidelines.
  11. Maintains, processes and stores digital evidence following established procedures and guidelines.
  12. Prepares and submits evidence for forensic analysis to a laboratory facility and facilitates the return of analyzed evidence for preservation.
  13. Processes requests for evidence from authorized persons, ensuring compliance with applicable laws and guidelines.
  14. Facilitates the delivery of fulfilled evidence requests to appropriate recipients following approved procedures and maintains related chain of custody documentation.
  15. Releases property and or evidence to authorized persons following established procedures and applicable law.
  16. Conducts detailed case research to determine the eligibility of evidence for disposition.
  17. Disposes of property and evidence, following established procedures, guidelines and applicable law.
  18. Appears in court and provides testimony on issues related to the handling and chain of custody of evidence.
  19. Maintains productive working relationships with all stakeholders in the system.
  20. Prepares and files court motions related to the disposition of property or evidence.
  21. Follows established security procedures to ensure the integrity of operations.
  22. Assesses section processes and operations and actively contributes to improved section efficiency.
  23. Continuously develops and maintains current knowledge and skills related to property and evidence management and practices.
  24. Conducts inventories and audits of property storage areas to ensure accuracy and maintain operational effectiveness.
  25. Performs other duties as assigned.

Job Responsibilities, Supervisory Personnel

Common job responsibilities for evidence management supervisory personnel may include:

  1. Supervises, instructs, schedules, reviews, and evaluates the work activities of assigned staff of the evidence management unit.
  2. Receives and processes evidence and other property submitted for holding, reviewing property documentation for accuracy against submitted evidence.
  3. System administrator for property management system, digital evidence management system, digital evidence systems, security and key control systems and other property and evidence related technology.
  4. Thorough knowledge of property and evidence standards, laws and best practices.
  5. Stores all processed evidence and property received utilizing established procedures.
  6. Responsible for routine inventories and audits of property and evidence stored.
  7. Organizing and maintaining an orderly, efficient, safe and effective property room.
  8. Responsible for maintaining sustainable property and evidence intake and disposal operations.
  9. Drafts motions and orders for magistrates.
  10. Responsible for preventing unauthorized release of property or evidence.
  11. Responsible for ensuring the accuracy and documentation of property and evidence stored by the department.
  12. Responsible for maintaining property and evidence Standard Operating Procedures, logs, forms, databases, and technology system.
  13. Responsible for the security and storage conditions for all property and evidence stored.
  14. Prepares records and logs of property and evidence activities.
  15. Appears in court to testify on the handling and chain of custody of evidence processed.
  16. Performs other duties as assigned.

Evidence Unit Common Knowledge, Skills and Working Conditions

Common required knowledge, skills and working conditions for evidence management line and supervisory personnel may include:

  1. Knowledge of property and evidence management standards, principles and best practices.
  2. Knowledge of property and evidence related laws.
  3. Skilled in providing customer service.
  4. Skilled in utilizing modern office equipment.
  5. Skilled in technology systems administration.
  6. Skilled in reading and comprehending English.
  7. Skilled in handling interruptions.
  8. Skilled in preparing and maintaining records.
  9. Skilled in operating a computer and related software applications.
  10. Skilled in communicating effectively with a variety of individuals.
  11. Frequent climbing, balancing, reaching, sitting, standing, stooping, kneeling, crouching,
  12. Walking, talking, seeing, hearing, and manual dexterity.
  13. Occasional lifting and carrying up to 50 pounds.
  14. Work is typically performed in both standard office and outdoor environments, with:
    1. Potential exposure to adverse weather conditions.
    2. Potential exposure to fumes, airborne particles, infectious diseases, and criminal suspects.

Rotation of Assignment

  1. Continuity and consistency is a critical element of successful evidence management. Development of performance competency in evidence management operations requires a steep and lengthy learning curve. The practice of rotating line position or supervisory assignments to the evidence management unit is discouraged.

Assignment Duration

  1. Permanent assignments are the preferred duration for evidence management unit job assignments. Permanent assignments should be contingent on satisfactory job performance.
  2. In lieu of a permanent assignment, agencies should consider a five-year minimum assignment period.

Temporary Assignments

  1. Temporary assignments to the evidence management unit can be leveraged to assist the unit with proper training and specific instruction for short-term projects.
  2. Employees with performance or disciplinary issues should not be assigned to the evidence management unit.

Sworn and Civilian Staff

  1. Generally, there is no specific best practice or preference for sworn or civilian personnel in staffing evidence management units. However, civilian staff assignments, given most agency organizational structures, tend to provide more continuity and consistency in organizations where sworn staff positions rotate periodically to new assignments.

Supervision and Management

  1. Provided that evidence unit supervisors and managers are provided with the organization authority to ensure compliance with established policies and procedures, there is no specific best practice or preference for sworn supervision or management.
  2. In sworn law enforcement agencies, it is advisable that evidence management unit civilian supervisors and managers are included in the agency chain of command structure to resolve authority issues for issues outside of the evidence management unit.

Unit Work Hours

  1. Ideally, evidence management unit work hours should be scheduled to provide dedicated time to perform all basic job functions and processes, including work on disposition processes. Limited unit staffing limits schedule flexibility, but agencies should consider alternative strategies to accommodate all critical functions regardless of unit size.

Public Hours

  1. Evidence management units should be responsive and provide efficient and effective service to the public. Unless agencies have sufficient evidence management personnel to accommodate public release or services during all normal scheduled hours, agencies should consider scheduling appointed times for property and evidence release or service hours for members of the public. Public release or service hours should provide responsive, reasonable access to the public to prevent undue delay of service. Unscheduled public service availability may prevent smaller evidence management units from completion of critical tasks and processes.

Internal Customer Service Hours

  1. Evidence management units should be responsive and provide efficient and effective service to internal agency clients. Unless agencies have sufficient evidence management personnel to accommodate services for internal customer service during all normal scheduled hours, agencies should consider scheduling appointed times for internal customer service. Unscheduled internal service availability may prevent smaller evidence management units from completion of critical tasks and processes.

Post-Assignment Background Investigations and Drug Screening.

  1. Agencies should consider post-assignment background investigations and drug screening at routine intervals to ensure security and detect any potential significant financial stressors or undetected criminal activity or association that may have occurred after the initial background investigation.
  2. Any post-assignment background investigation or drug screening process should be applied consistently and comport with local policy and state and federal employment law.

Evidence Personnel Training Standards

Evidence Personnel Training Program

  1. All evidence management personnel should receive documented job assignment training that covers each area of responsibility required to perform basic duties and complete essential unit functions.

Temporary or Volunteer Evidence Personnel Training

  1. Any personnel, whether on temporary assignment or volunteer, performing evidence management functions within the unit, should receive specific training that covers assigned duties and tasks.

Evidence Personnel Training Issues, Safety and Equipment

  1. Evidence personnel training should include training on the purpose and use of personal protective gear utilized by the unit.
  2. Evidence personnel training should include use and safety training for all equipment utilized by the unit.

Evidence Personnel Training Updates

  1. All evidence personnel should receive update training related to policy, procedure or statutory changes.

Practice 3 – Evidence Personnel Training Best Practices

Evidence Personnel Documentation of Training to Competency

  1. Evidence management unit training programs should include documentation of training to competency. The evidence management unit training program should establish specific job skills and core competencies based on processes, policies and procedures utilized by the unit. Employee mastery of core competencies should be measured and evaluated through a combination of observation and examination as determined by the standards established under the evidence management training program.

Professional Associations

  1. Evidence management unit personnel should be encouraged and supported to state, regional or national evidence management organizations to maintain currency with laws, trends, technology and other issues that impact evidence management.
  2. Professional associations and training opportunities promote professionalism and the development of problem solving networks related to evidence management issues
  3. Participation in evidence management professional associations not only influences and impacts local operations, but can drive change and support innovation and growth at state and national levels. Both industry and legislation can be positively influenced and are responsive to large stakeholder groups, especially organizations with the common purpose of providing effective and efficient evidence management services to improve the justice system.

Practice 4 – Organizational Training Standards

Organization Evidence Management Training Program

  1. All agency personnel with evidence related job responsibilities or functions should receive documented training covering evidence related duties and tasks.
  2. All agency personnel with evidence related job responsibilities or functions should receive update training related to policy, procedure or statutory changes.

Practice 4 – Organizational Training Best Practices

Training Providers for Organization Evidence Management Training

  1. In many agencies, specific training on the evidence submission processes and other evidence-related system training is conducted during field training by field training officers. It is a best practice that all agency personnel with evidence related job responsibilities or functions receive evidence process training from evidence management personnel, or through a training program designed and approved by the unit to provide sufficient training to perform basic tasks and job functions related to the evidence process.

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