Each month, IAPE's primary instructor and Executive Director, 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.
To submit a question for Joe
We are currently re-writing our policies on our purging processes and dealing with several aged suicide cases. I have spent hours on line researching our state laws and can't seem to find any references on how long we have to keep evidence from a suicide. Can you Help?
Dear Dead End,
You may be searching in vain, as there are very few states that I'm aware of that have codified the issue, as there are so many possible scenarios and options when it comes to a suicide case. I have reached out to all of our current board members who are presently working in various property rooms for some ideas.
After a number of discussions, the following thoughts evolved. First of all, there must be a discussion and agreement with all of the stakeholders, such as the Coroners Officer, the case detective, management of the investigation division, property room personnel and the department's legal counsel to ensure there is no mandatory requirement for further retention.
When evidence from a suicide case is received, most likely, will include a weapons, drugs, or some type of ligature that the property room will be in possession of. In many instances, these item(s) have been on the shelf for years with no decision regarding the retention of the item(s).
In theory, the property room should be managing the system and not having to be involved whether the items can be purged or not. IAPE Professional Standards suggest the property officer not be making a decision without the approval the Case Officer and in some cases the prosecutor if the circumstances were questionable at the time of the incident.
Since so few departments have a policy, let's consider possibly using some type of decision tree to come up with some options.
The first step is to develop policy identifying the decision makers in suicide cases.
Consider developing protocols to place the case/items in identifiable categories such as:
Obvious - no signs of a crime
- Coroners Office has categorized as a suicide
- Case Officer agrees with finding
- Family doesn't question findings
- Set a review date that is agreeable by all stakeholders, such as 6 months, one year, etc.
Obvious - no signs of crime - additional follow up may be necessary due to family concerns
- Coroner's Office has categorized case as a suicide
- Case Officer is not comfortable with known facts and feels other material information could change status of case
- Completion of all necessary forensic testing
- Family questions findings of the coroner's office, continued retention may be the most prudent action.
- Set a review date that is agreeable by all stakeholders such as 1 year and a re-review on the anniversary of the submission.
- Any continued retention of items must be articulated by the case officer with a written justification along with supervisory approval.
- Justification for further retention is important so that the following year , when again being reviewed, everyone knows why it was retained and you are not starting from scratch.
- Secondly, if the case officer has retired, left the department, the researched information (justification within the property record) is available for the next person that may have to review and make a decision.
When the item is released by the case officer for removal, always consider reaching out to the family if they want the items. This could be a scenario where the family members want the items for closure. By sending the family a letter stating the department is in possession of certain items from the death investigation are ready for disposal, they are being put on notice the item(s) are subject to removal from the inventory. Please contact the department if interest in claiming. Don't describe the item in the letter.
Some releases may include firearms and may be a part of the estate and destroying the weapon could have civil claim concerns at a later date. As a best practice, the release of a firearm should always be done through a licensed firearms dealer.
If the item(s) contain some type of bio evidence (bloody clothing) or chemically treated evidence when processed, always consider having the recipient sign a waiver that they are aware of a possible danger.
Again, with so little covered in policies , this is provided as a starting point
Since late 2019, there have been countless news stories both printed newspapers, web stories and local TV stations, regarding the mishandling of evidence at time of submission. With this most current headline (June 11, 2020), 2 deputies have plead guilty to.
"willful omission to perform their duties". Not submitting your evidence in a prescribed time
(IAPE Standard 2.1: Policies and Procedures - Written Directives)
"requiring all property/evidence to be placed under the control of the property room before the officer ends his or her tour of duty"
By not applying elementary submission standards for all submitting employees, there can have significant ramifications for all as noted in this story. Additionally, its incumbent upon the submitting employee's supervisor to ensure compliance with this requirement.
In this article, the prosecutor is re-evaluating his earlier position about 15 other deputies and may now pursue more prosecutions. In consideration of today's political climate, can you see where some of the remaining deputies are going to be prosecuted? All we have to do is follow the rules because all the rules are going to be closely monitored by the public.
Ex-O.C. sheriff's deputies plead guilty in evidence booking scandal
Two former Orange County sheriff's deputies have pleaded guilty to criminal charges in an evidence booking scandal that could imperil thousands of criminal cases, prosecutors said Monday.
Joseph Anthony Atkinson Jr., 39, and Bryce Richmond Simpson, 31, each pleaded guilty Friday to one count of
willful omission to perform their duties
, according to a statement issued by the Orange County district attorney's office. Each was sentenced to
one year of probation
The charges stem from a broader scandal after an internal Sheriff's Department audit found that
one-third of all evidence taken in by the agency over a two-year span,
from February 2016 to February 2018, had not been booked within one day, which is the department's policy. In some instances, evidence was booked months late or never booked at all, attorneys and advocates have said.
Prosecutors reviewed potential criminal charges against
at least 17 deputies
. Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer had initially declined to charge any deputies but since has reversed course and said he did not initially realize the scope of the alleged misconduct.
still could face charges, according to the statement.
Some cases proved to be particularly egregious. Earlier this year, a filing submitted by the Orange County public defender's office alleged that one deputy was late to book evidence in at least 51 cases, including one instance in which he waited nine months to deliver a machete to the evidence locker after seizing the blade in a traffic stop. The deputy, Philip Avalos,
was later promoted to the rank of sergeant.
Several deputies have been charged for failing to properly book evidence seized during criminal investigations, a scandal that could affect thousands of criminal cases.
Need Training Right Now?
IAPE also offers ONLINE TRAINING
The Full online course class option is a great choice if you want much of the same training as the Live classes but without the travel and time away from the department. The IAPE Property and Evidence Management video Course is approximately 14 hours in length and was prepared by Law Enforcement Personnel for Law Enforcement Personnel. Completion of the course meets the training requirements for becoming a Certified Property and Evidence Specialist (CPES).
ONLINE INDIVIDUAL CLASS MODULES:
Below is a listing of our individual class options for those who may have limited time and want to get specific training in the most needed areas within the evidence room.
Audits and Inventories Video:
This module provides material useful to Property Room personnel as well as Auditors regarding the preparation for and procedure of conducting an audit of the Property Room. Additionally, you will also learn various aspects of conducting inventories and how they differ from audits.
Security Video: This module focuses on the best ways to secure your Property Room as well as common mistakes that you should avoid. You will also learn about many types of products and procedures which will enhance the security of your facility. INCLUDES SPECIAL BONUS VIDEO ON ELECTRONIC SECURITY.
Documentation, Chain of Custody and Automation: These 2 video modules provide an understanding of the Chain of Custody within the property room, along with an overview of the various internal controls needed to properly track and manage you evidence when it leaves your department for court, crime lab or out for investigations . Additionally, the video also discusses the advantages of automating the tracking process, Found Property and Property for Safekeeping.
Start your Online Training Today!
July 15 - 16, 2020
July 20 - 21, 2020
July 22, 2020
August 3 - 4, 2020
August 10 - 11, 2020
August 19 - 20, 2020
September 1 - 2, 2020
September 21 - 22, 2020
September 23, 2020
Sept. 30 - Oct. 1, 2
2 Seats Left
October 6 - 7, 2020
October 13 - 14, 2020
October 21 - 22, 2020
November 9 - 10, 2020
November 12 - 13, 2020
9 Seats Left
November 17 - 18, 2020
December 7 - 8, 2020
December 15 - 16, 2020
15 Seats Left
January 13 - 14, 2021
A special thank you to those who attended
IAPE's Inaugural Clerk of the Courts Class
in Hanover, Virginia on
June 22-23, 2020, taught by
Lindsey Smith and Ellen Spain.
Got a Job?
Need a Job?
IAPE is delighted to announce that we have a new section for posting a job announcement or checking job opportunities.
Certified Evidence Specialis
Along with the IAPE's extensive
evidence training courses
, the IAPE offers our members the opportunity to become Certified Property and Evidence Specialists.
Certification is available to law enforcement agency members as well as corporate members. The designation of CPES or CCPES indicates that the holder is a professional who has completed requirements in training; has worked in the field for a required period of time; and has demonstrated their knowledge of professional standards through a written test. More than 2,000 IAPE members have achieved the CPES or CCPES designation.