EMI Standards and Best Practices

Chapter 9 – Accountability and Compliance

Purpose: The overall integrity of a law enforcement agency’s evidence operation provides an excellent litmus test for the agency’s overall organizational integrity and health. The nature of evidence operations requires limited access to preserve a secure chain of custody, which creates a lower visibility profile with the organization. Sustainable evidence operations also require frequent interaction with a wide variety of stakeholders, which requires broad participation both internally within the organization and externally with other related stakeholders. The combination of low organizational visibility and wide organizational impact can create an environment susceptible to neglect within a mission critical unit. Sustainable evidence operations implement effective accountability and compliance measures to ensure the integrity of evidence. Implementation and adoption of the Accountability and Compliance standards and practices recommended by the Evidence Management Institute promotes a stable organizational baseline for sustainable evidence management.

 

Scope: Inspection Accountability Standards and Best Practices

Audit Accountability Standards and Best Practices

Inventory Accountability Standards and Best Practices

Forensic Lab Compliance Standards and Best Practices

Statutory Compliance Standards and Best Practices

 

Definitions: Inspection. A routine internal evaluation of safety and security, facility and working conditions, operational readiness, workload and basic policy and process compliance to ensure sustainable evidence management practices and detect potential problem areas or issues for early intervention.

Audit. A comprehensive compliance evaluation and analysis of evidence management operations.

Inventory. An evaluation process that accounts for all evidence and non-evidentiary property items in the actual custody or control of the agency, reconciled against a list of all items known or believed to be in the custody or control of the agency.

Chapter IX. Accountability and Compliance

  1. Inspection Accountability Standards
    1. Evidence Management Unit Inspection Interval
      1. An evidence management unit should be routinely inspected for compliance at least once each month.
      2. Issues or problems discovered during the inspection process should be noted and assigned for correction with a planned resolution date.
  1. Inspection Accountability Best Practices
    1. Evidence Management Unit Inspection Intervals
      1. The one month inspection interval is a minimum standard to ensure compliance; evidence management unit inspections are recommended daily or weekly as a best practice.
    2. Evidence Management Inspection Processes
      1. The inspection process should include a walkthrough evaluation of physical facility conditions, security and safety issues, general order and cleanliness, equipment condition and supply levels.
      2. The inspection process should include an evaluation of basic workload processes and review of items outside under the responsibility of the unit but outside the custody of the physical location (court, lab, investigator).
  2. Audit Accountability Standards
    1. Evidence Management Unit Audit Interval
      1. Evidence management operations should be audited for compliance annually.
      2. Issues or problems discovered during the audit process should be noted and assigned for remediation with a planned resolution date.
      3. A detailed report of findings should be compiled by the auditor(s) and submitted for review by the chain of command.
  1. Audit Accountability Best Practices
    1. Evidence Management Unit Audit Interval
      1. In addition to an annual audit, agencies should consider requiring an audit to be completed:
        1. When significant issues, such as evidence loss or theft, evidence contamination or other similar issues are discovered by the agency, or
        2. When unit supervision or management or executive level leadership changes occur within the agency.
    2. Evidence Management Unit Audit Process
      1. The audit process should include a thorough and detailed evaluation of the physical facility and operational conditions; including but not limited to storage areas, storage capacity, unit equipment functionality, and supply levels.
      2. The audit process should include a thorough and detailed evaluation of unit workload and backlog levels, intake and disposition rates and levels.
      3. The audit should include a thorough and detailed evaluation of safety and security processes.
      4. The audit should include a thorough and detailed evaluation of accountability measures, including inventory status and a review of current evidence stored outside of the custody of evidence management unit.
      5. The audit should include an evaluation of unit packaging and labeling practices to ensure compliance and conformity to existing policy and procedures.
    3. Additional Audit Recommendations
      1. The inclusion of at least one auditor outside the evidence management unit is a highly recommended practice for objective analysis of compliance.
  2. Inventory Accountability Standards
    1. Evidence Management Unit Inventory Interval
      1. The evidence management unit should perform a complete inventory of all property and evidence annually.
      2. After the inventory process is completed, a report detailing all findings, including a list of items unable to be located at the end of the inventory process, should be submitted through the unit chain of command.
  1. Inventory Accountability Best  Practices
    1. Evidence Management Unit Inventory Intervals
      1. In addition to an annual inventory, agencies should consider requiring a full inventory to be completed;
        1. when significant issues, such as evidence loss or theft, evidence contamination or other similar issues are discovered by the agency, or
        2. When unit supervision or management or executive level leadership changes occur within the agency.
    2. Inventory Processes
      1. The inventory process should be performed with at least two persons present to ensure accountability and to provide verification of results.
      2. The inventory process should include a complete inventory list of property and evidence items believed to be in the custody of the agency as a baseline for the inventory process.
      3. The inventory list should include the item’s description, storage location and a unique identifier.
      4. Each item from the complete inventory list should be physically located or accounted for during the inventory process. The resulting process will generate three types of findings:
        1. Item located in designated location as listed
        2. Items not located as listed (unable to locate)
        3. Items located but not listed in the location
      5. The complete inventory list should be reconciled with findings observed during the physical location process.
      6. Items located incorrectly should be relocated and updated on the inventory list.
      7. Items that cannot be located in the designated location should be researched and located throughout the inventory process until all reasonable attempts to locate are exhausted.
    3. Additional Inventory Recommendations
      1. In lieu of a single event complete inventory process, agencies may consider breaking the inventory process into locations or categories and complete the process on a continual basis over a designated period of months or days.
      2. In the event that circumstances prevent the completion of a full inventory process each year, it is recommended that narcotics, currency, firearms and biological evidence locations are inventoried annually.
  2. Forensic Lab Compliance Standards
    1. Forensic Lab Compliance
      1. Evidence management unit practices should conform to established packaging and submission procedures as directed by the forensic lab.
  1. Forensic Lab Compliance Best Practices
    1. Additional Forensic Lab Compliance Recommendations
      1. Absent guidance of a local or state forensic lab, agencies should consider adopting the national standards and practices established by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) publication NISTIR 7928 The Biological Evidence Preservation Handbook: Best Practices for Evidence Handlers.
  2. Statutory Compliance Standards
    1. Statutory Compliance
      1. Evidence management unit practices, policies and procedures should conform to established local, state and federal statutes and regulations.
  1. Statutory Compliance Best Practices
    1. No additional statutory compliance practices recommended in this version.
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External References:

National Institute of Standards and Technology. 2013.  The Biological Evidence Preservation Handbook: Best Practices for Evidence Handlers. (NISTIR 7928). Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.


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