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.
Good morning! Thank you again for a great class a few weeks ago in Coral Springs. My new Lt. being there was incredibly helpful as well. I have a quick question for you, or opinion inquiry.
Is there a guideline to follow (other than individual department policy) on how long to keep these "information only" type of items. Like such...
-Traffic accident photos, no charges filed
-Dog bite photos, no charges filed,
-Attended death photos
-Graffiti photos, no charges filed
Catherine in Florida
The reason you have them is "cause we always have", and in some cases the question has never been asked, why?
I'm guessing that you will not find two department's in the country that handles their records that same. The first question that needs to be asked is does your state, city or county have a Records Retention law. The one person that may have this information would be your City Clerk or your Records Manager.
As a new Sergeant at my former Police Department, I found some interesting things that made no sense when it came to records retention and when I asked about it, the response was "this is the way we have always done it". The issue at hand was we were retaining certain documents by an establish time frame. For example, most misdemeanors reports were purged after 3 years and certain felonies after 7 years and other more serious crime much longer.
Every year the City Council passed a resolution for the various city departments to purge certain aged records. At the time, we were keeping fingerprint lifts and photographs archived in the property room. Every year I would get a copy of the resolution and go through the list and purge those old records that in most cases were the property records. When I started examining the full retention list a little closer, I found that there were provisions to purge all photographs after 10 years and fingerprints lifts after 10 years. As an inquisitive young new Sergeant, I asked a very simple question". If we have purged the crime report and the property records, why are we retaining the photos and fingerprint years longer? If the reports are gone, how would we have access to locate the prints and photo?
You ask what did this all accomplish. The following year after I had made an issue of the City's Retention guideline they were all changed so that when the crime report / incident report was purged so were any related photos and prints. To sum up the retention issue, ask questions, ask questions and then ask more questions. In some cases the question can make positive changes.