Each month, IAPE's primary instructor, Joe Latta, answers one of your questions. Consider writing us if you have a question that needs an answer. We would love to hear from you.
I have a new commanding officer that wants officers to change how they document and book evidence into the computer to save time in the submission process. He wants the officers to place individual bar codes on guns, money and drugs and then start grouping items in one package. For example, the officer has evidence from a burglary containing, a package of drugs, shirt, tennis shoes, a bloody tissue, and a screwdriver. The commanding officer is suggesting the drugs get one bar code and then try to group the remaining items under one bar code. In other words, the bar code is representing a package, not an item. Can you give me your thoughts on doing this?
First of all, a good place to start would be the
IAPE Professional Standards.
Each item of property or evidence should have its own unique tracking number as no two items in the inventory should have the same number.
Note: the tracking number can be the same as a barcode number
When the IAPE Professional Standards were adopted, it was our goal to ensure that when property and evidence was documented that each received item could be individually tracked to possible different locations / destinations, such as, shelf number, court, lab, out for investigation.
In other words, the property record should document the journey of each item(s) separately, as it moves through the system. As a best practice, the Chain of Custody needs to clearly document the path of each item goes. Barcodes, should represent items not the container.
For instance, an officer submits a shirt, tennis shoes, a bloody tissue, and a screwdriver, and all could easily travel a different path during the life cycle in the property room. The bloody tissue could go to the crime lab, and later to court, while the tennis shoes and shirt could be retuned to the owner and the screwdriver may be destroyed. If all of the items were grouped under one barcode, how could a barcode system track each item individually? The answer is it is not possible and defeats the purpose of using a barcode system.
In your question, the mere documentation / movement of these items would be most cumbersome. It is conceivable that one could go into a notes field in the computer and separately describe the actions of each item which completely circumvents the reason for automating the evidence.
As a best practice, some departments will place each item into a bag (size specific), envelope, heat sealable pouch, etc. and place a barcode on each individual package. When the items are received in the property room, the property officer validates receipt of each item and then places the items with individual barcodes into one larger envelope, bag or box. When the items are placed into the larger container, the property officer will then print out a mirror barcode for each item within the package. Thus, the larger package becomes a convenience container to keep the items together. Note: If all of the smaller packages are property sealed, initialed and barcoded, there may be no need to seal the convenience container as its' purpose is to merely keep the items together. Remember, the convenience container is not a part of the Chain of Custody, but simply a way to keep items in a case together.
One of the most important reasons for barcode is to conduct inventories. In theory your software should allow you to scan a storage location and then scan the items on the shelf. When complete the computer should provide a "discrepancy report" sometime referred to as "exception report". The report should provide a listing of items not scanned and items on the shelf that don't belong in that specific location. If you are scanning a package (one barcode), with four items the scan is only validating the package is there. If one of the items in the package was in court, lab or returned to the owner the inventory would not know and suggest it is on the shelf and accounted for.
As a best practice barcodes should represent items not just a container with multiple items. In the case where the officer has twenty identical items such as 5 packages of AAA batteries one barcode would suffice. When barcoding evidence always consider the transfer and movement of the item so that the scanners can be fully utilized. In this case all of the item in the bag could have gone to different destinations!
This is a TREND
Commentary: If you have ever attended an IAPE Class, you well know that we discuss Events and Trends that may affect the property room. Well this is the latest trend that is going to influence how long we retain evidence and the importance of knowing our inventories. With the advent of DNA, I have always suggested in classes that you may have evidence in aged person crimes (homicides, assaults, sexual assaults and rapes) stored in "the bowels of the building" that everyone could have been forgotten about and or was submitted to the crime lab years ago and may have had less than positive results during the testing. The DNA testing 10 years ago has changed dramatically and with the use of improved scientific processes, od case are being solved. This may be especially true if the case has already been tested years ago.
Everyone, our property room are becoming a treasure trove of items that are going to help us solve those old cases. Unfortunately, those cases have been on the shelf since before some of us were born and no one in the organization has any knowledge whatsoever of the potential of solving a 50 year old cold case homicide or sexual assault.
It's time for all of us who are in the "bowels of the building" to "Be On The Look Out" for some of the old unsolved cases that may have been forgotten about for years and let your investigative personal know.
Today's detective in most departments may not have any knowledge of the 1955 murder that was never solved and many staff members that were involved have since retired and or passed. BOLO "Be On The Look Out". If you find something let your bosses know! The following news story illustrates how powerful science and genealogy has become
Man Arrested in 1992 Murder of Teacher
After DNA Website Links Him to Killing
Rowe is the latest to be arrested after being identified through a genealogy
Police have arrested a popular Pennsylvania DJ in the
cold case killing
of a young woman who was sexually assaulted and murdered in her home back in 1992. Christy Mirack was just 25 years old when she was beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted in her Greenfield Estate townhouse in East Lampeter Township on Dec. 21, 1992.
The sixth grade teacher
on her living room floor by her school's principal after she did not come to work the following day. Emergency responders rushed to the scene, but Mirack had already died, authorities said.
Since the killing, investigators vetted dozens of persons of interest, but the case went cold. But 25 years later, a break in the case came as a genotype formed from
left at the scene matched relatives of Raymond Rowe, 49, a well-known area disc jockey.
Rowe's relatives had uploaded their genetic material to a public database, authorities said. The match that came back showed Rowe was a strong viable suspect,
On May 31, undercover detectives were able to pick up a water bottle and gum Rowe discarded while working as a DJ at an event at Smoketown Elementary School, the Lancaster County District Attorney's Office said.
Rowe's DNA came back as a match to the DNA found on multiple parts of Mirack, and on the carpet underneath her body, the district attorney's office said.
Rowe was arrested at his home and is being held at the Lancaster County Prison. He was charged with one count of criminal homicide and will not be eligible for bail. He has not yet entered a plea. "This killer was at liberty from this crime,
this brutal crime
for longer than Christy Mirack was on this earth alive," District Attorney Craig Steadman told reporters following Rowe's arrest.
Known as DJ Freez, Rowe has performed at events with Paris Hilton, Brooke Hogan and Beenie Man, according to his website. He noted he performs at as many as 150 weddings and parties per year, including fundraisers that include Stop the Violence and events benefiting a women's abuse shelter.
Rowe was never considered a suspect in the case before, according to reports. It was not immediately clear whether Mirack knew Rowe before her murder, but investigators had previously said there were no signs of forced entry at her home.
Rowe is the latest to be arrested after being identified through a genealogy website to which a relative apparently uploaded genetic material. Last week, 66-year-old Gary Hartman was charged with the
rape and murder of Michella Welch
, who was just 12 when she was killed in Washington State in 1986.
Hartman, a registered nurse, was tied to the killing after DNA found on the little girl's body was ran though a public database and led investigators to him. They then got a hold of a napkin Hartman used and matched the DNA on it to the DNA found on Michella. Hartman has since pleaded not guilty.
And in April, 72-year-old
was arrested for the 1978 murders of Katie and Brian Maggiore, but officials believe he was behind at least 12 murders, 51 rapes and 120 home burglaries that occurred in at least 10 different counties in California in the 1970s and 80s, crimes tied to a suspect known as the Golden State Killer. Authorities say a partial DNA match with an unidentified, distant relative who shared their genetic material with a free online database led investigators to DeAngelo.
has not yet entered a plea.
No violation of privacy is thought to have been committed in these cases, but the tools used to make the arrests have served as a reminder of the ways technology surrounding DNA can be used.
"There [aren't] legal ramifications, so much as policy ramifications - what kind of rules as a society do we want to create around DNA?" Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project,
shortly after DeAngelo's arrest. "One of the lessons here is that people need to be very careful about sharing their DNA ... because it can be potentially accessed by police and other government agencies.
"Obviously, no one is shedding any tears for a serial killer and rapist, but if we're going to start allowing the police to post the DNA of suspected criminals open to the public, that raises significant privacy issues," Stanley continued. "Not all suspected criminals turn out to be guilty ... even if they are, does that mean they lose all their privacy interests in their DNA?" "It's important that there be good checks and balances on how government agencies deal with DNA," he said.
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Update to June Newsletter
A special thanks to Captain Jeff Bell of the Shafter Police department in Shafter Ca., who provided us with another very important link that can allow our departments to query
the US Secret Service US Dollars website for more information on specific bills.
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