EMI Standards and Best Practices

Chapter 2 – Policy, Procedure and Documentation

Purpose: A comprehensive and current body of organizational policies and procedures related to evidence management is essential to sustainable evidence management operations. Sound documentation systems and processes safeguard and record the secure chain of custody for all items. Implementation and adoption of the Policy, Procedure and Documentation standards and practices recommended by the Evidence Management Institute promotes a stable organizational baseline for sustainable evidence management.

 

Scope: Policy Standards and Best Practices

Procedure Documentation Standards and Best Practices

Documentation Standards and Best Practices

 

Definitions: Policy. Published agency documents that establish agency philosophies and organizational structure, conduct standards, scope of authority and responsibilities for agency employees related to a particular content area. Published policy is often collected, organized and referred to as directives, general orders or other similar nomenclature.

Procedure. Published and standardized documents providing specific instruction for approved or expected manner of completion of required tasks and processes.

Practice. Actual employed methods for performing tasks or processes. Practices are generally undocumented or informally documented methods developed by custom in the absence of, or contrary to, published procedures. Outdated published procedures often necessitate the adoption of informal practices.

Documentation. Recognized, formally approved and published policies, procedures, manuals or forms. Documentation also refers to specific methods and requirements for recording information related to established processes or forms.

Manual. A published collection of associated policies or procedures.

Institutional Knowledge. Refers to sum of knowledge and information contained formally in published documentation, and information informally documented, contained and retained by individuals and groups within the agency.

Chapter II. Policy, Procedure and Documentation Standards

  1. Policy Standards
    1. Policy Statement
      1. Published agency policy establishes the foundation of sustainability for evidence management operations and demonstrates organization cultural values and commitment to the overall integrity of the evidence system.
      2. Policy related to evidence management issues should provide enduring, stable guidance on foundational issues, establish authority, and define organizational structures and relationships. Issues or processes that require frequent changes or updates should be covered as independent procedures.
      3. This chapter is intended to provide broad guidance on general issues related to evidence management. Specific area evidence management policy recommendations are included throughout the EMI Evidence Management Standards and Best Practices Guide as referenced.
    2. Evidence Management Policy Requirements, Right of Refusal
      1. Agency policy should contain an enforceable provision granting evidence management personnel the right to refuse improperly submitted evidence until issues have been resolved in compliance with published agency standards.
      2. In lieu of a right-of-refusal policy, agency policy should contain an enforceable provision prohibiting evidence management personnel from accepting improperly submitted evidence until issues have been resolved in compliance with published agency standards.
      3. Refusal or acceptance policy provisions should be accompanied by a corresponding established procedure for resolving evidence submission issues.
    3. Evidence Management Policy Requirements, Compliance Mandate
      1. Agency policy should contain a specific enforceable provision requiring all agency personnel to comply with published evidence management processes and procedures as documented.
      2. Agency policy should contain a provision requiring the update and publication of any changes to evidence management processes or procedures.
    4. Policy Publication
      1. Regardless of publication format, all agency policy should be published, distributed and available to all agency personnel.
      2. Publication dates, policy changes and personnel acknowledgement of the receipt of agency policy documents should be recorded and maintained by the agency.
  1. Policy Best Practices
    1. Policy Development Considerations
      1. When developing policy related to evidence management operations it is important to consider the following areas:
        1. Core value or intended goal of policy. Policies should reinforce agency values with respect to integrity and justice, and be planned to accomplish or address a specific goal or need within the agency.
        2. Broad application. Policy is generally reserved for broad organizational change and often not the appropriate vehicle for addressing specific work unit behaviors or practices.
        3. Longevity. Policy changes should generally reflect long term changes for the organization after careful consideration, ad hoc or frequent policy change can create an unstable operational environment.
        4. Responsibility and Authority.  Policy changes that create new personnel responsibilities should also afford documented authorization to perform additional related tasks.
        5. Stakeholder Involvement. Broad input from stakeholders affected by planned policy change should be considered when developing policy.
        6. Budget or Workload Considerations. Policy changes may create additional budget constraints or workload obligations. If policy changes require additional funding or staffing resources, it is advisable to secure funding or find alternative staffing measures prior to implementing policy change.
        7. Statutory Considerations. Policy changes should be in compliance with existing statutes.
        8. Unintended Consequences. Policy developers should attempt to account for all possible impacts or unintended consequences related to planned changes.
        9. Specific Language and Communication. Policy language should be specific and communicate changes clearly. Language subject to interpretation should be avoided.
        10. Future Review and Scrutiny. It is important to consider future scrutiny of planned policy changes when developing new policy, especially if policy change is implemented in the absence of the measures listed above.
  2. Procedure Standards
    1. Procedure Statement
      1. Agency procedures prescribe the specific and approved manner for successful completion of any given task. In order to establish a performance expectation for any process or procedure, clearly established documentation is required to provide guidance and instruction on all required elements for completion.
      2. Evidence management process procedures should be developed, adopted and published for any task, process or performance expectation required of agency personnel.
      3. Evidence management procedure documents should reflect actual, current practices and be updated and published after any changes to evidence management processes or procedures.
      4. Regardless of publication format, all documented procedures should be published, distributed and available to all applicable agency personnel.
      5. Publication dates, procedure changes and personnel acknowledgement of the receipt of original or change documents should be recorded and maintained by the agency.
    2. Procedure Requirements, Evidence Submission Manual
      1. The agency, in coordination with the evidence management unit, should publish an evidence submission manual to all evidence submitting personnel covering:
        1. Appropriate or accepted evidence collection procedures
        2. Documentation procedures and requirements for evidence system submission
        3. Packaging and labeling procedures, or reference to published packaging manual;
        4. User training or reference to published user training, for all systems required in the performance of duties related to evidence submission
        5. Procedures for correcting submission issues
    3. Procedure Requirements, Evidence Management Unit Operations Manual
      1. The agency, in coordination with the evidence management unit, should publish an evidence management unit operations manual to all evidence management unit personnel covering:
        1. Evidence intake and acceptance processes
        2. Documentation of evidence processes
        3. Organization of evidence facility
        4. Storage of evidence
        5. Special handling processes
        6. Temporary release or movement of evidence
        7. Review and control of items stored in locations outside the unit
        8. Disposition processes
        9. Accountability processes
        10. Inventory processes
        11. Audit processes
        12. Inspection processes
        13. Facility maintenance
        14. Security processes
        15. Safety processes
  1. Procedure Best Practices
    1. Procedure Development
      1. When developing policy related to evidence management operations it is important to consider the following areas and development steps:
        1. Identify processes or tasks requiring procedures.
        2. Define purpose and scope of procedure.
        3. Identify and define minimum standards for acceptability.
        4. Identify required resources.
        5. Identify sequence for tasks completion.
        6. Draft procedure document.
        7. Inclusion of illustrations or photographs.
        8. Test for clarity using blind verification.
        9. Beta test directly with affected stakeholders.
        10. Invite review or comment.
        11. Obtain official approval or publication authorization.
        12. Publish.
        13. Document receipt.
    2. Evidence Disposal Process and Procedures Manual
      1. Agencies should consider publication of an evidence disposal process and procedures manual to provide detailed instruction related to evidence disposition. An evidence disposal process should address:
        1. Research methods and eligibility criteria for determining disposition eligibility for all personnel with evidence related job responsibilities
        2. Specific information for investigators related to procedures and options for responding to evidence disposal notifications
        3. Specific information for evidence management personnel related to notification and approval processing, preparation for disposition and all related disposition procedures, processes and methods
    3. Procedure Area Considerations
      1. Evidence management units should consider publication of procedures in addition to the recommendations explicitly expressed in this or related chapters. Processes or tasks that can benefit from published procedures include:
        1. Specific technical equipment or hardware procedures
        2. Software application use procedures
      2. Any process or task with an expected standard for completion should be covered by published procedure.
    4. Procedures Publication Format
      1. Evidence management units should consider multiple learning styles and communication strategies to assist personnel with procedure compliance. Strategies may include:
        1. Creation of short video segments for required procedures
        2. Conducting periodic short roll call or shift debriefing training
  2. Documentation Standards
    1. Documentation Statement
      1. Accurate and thorough documentation of all aspects of the evidence management process is critical to the integrity of the evidence item and the overall integrity of evidence.
      2. Documentation standards and practices in this chapter describe:
        1. General types of reference documentation for evidence management
        2. General types of process documentation
        3. Guidelines to establish effective documentation practices across all areas of the evidence management process
      3. Specific documentation requirements, detailed information regarding evidence item description or other specific documentation recommendations are included throughout the EMI Evidence Management Standards and Best Practices Guide as referenced.
    2. Documentation Priorities
      1. All documentation processes, whether related to reference documentation or entry documentation, should:
        1. Contain or provide accurate information
        2. Contain or provide sufficient information
        3. Contain or provide specific information
        4. Contain or provide clear information
    3. Documentation Manual or List
      1. The evidence management list should keep and publish an updated and complete manual or list covering current and approved forms or documentation system or process requirements.
  1. Documentation Best Practices
    1. Documentation Manual or List
      1. The evidence management list should keep and publish an updated and complete manual or list covering current and approved forms or documentation system or process requirements.
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