Ohio Attorney General and Auditor of State Offer Manual of Best Practices to Secure Property Rooms
Columbus – Securing and protecting evidence is a necessity for the justice system, and a new manual created jointly by the offices of the Ohio Attorney General and the Auditor of State provides the state’s law enforcement agencies with best practices in the management of property and evidence rooms, Attorney General Mike DeWine and Auditor of State Dave Yost announced today.
“We are pleased to announce the creation of this best practices manual, which is designed to be a quick reference guide to help law enforcement agencies implement policies to improve and maintain the integrity of their property and evidence rooms,” Attorney General DeWine said. “I thank Auditor Yost and his team for their work with our staff on this collaborative project.”
“Evidence and witness testimony are key components in the criminal justice system,” Auditor Yost said. “And just as we must shield witnesses from tampering and intimidation, we also must ensure that evidence is secured, protected from tampering and theft, and available when needed in the courtroom to establish the guilt or innocence of the accused.”
The “Ohio Property and Evidence Room Best Practices Manual” provides law enforcement officials with guidance on how to staff, organize, secure, document and monitor property and evidence handling.
The manual is not intended as a one-size-fits-all model for every Ohio law enforcement agency, because agencies differ in staffing and other resources, as well as being subject to different provisions of the Ohio Revised Code.
But the manual gives every agency the tools to run an effective property and evidence room adapted to each agency’s unique circumstances.
The manual stresses that the integrity and security of a property and evidence room is not established by accident and is not maintained by luck. It occurs when a law enforcement agency creates and follows policies and procedures designed to:
- Keep the property and evidence room secure.
- Preserve evidence and property according to existing laws, courtroom requirements, and agency retention schedules.
- Establish and maintain accurate documentation, including inventory and chain of custody records.
- Ensure the physical safety and legal compliance of all personnel.
The manual notes that proper selection of property room staff is vital to success and explores the pros and cons of employing either sworn personnel or civilians in this role.
These personnel should be fully vetted with background checks, and their duties should be segregated to ensure that no one person controls intake, documentation and disposition of evidence. Staff also should be trained to handle potentially dangerous property such as guns and drugs.
In addition to secure procedures and staff selection, the manual offers advice on security of property rooms, including locking devices, video surveillance, alarm systems and access logs.
Detailed advice is offered for the handling and storage of guns, drugs, currency and other valuables. These categories of property not only can pose dangers to property room personnel, but also are frequent targets of theft.
The manual provides guidance on how agencies can use periodic inventories and audits of property rooms to curb theft and expose lax procedures.
To help law enforcement apply these best practices, the manual includes sample documents such as property room access logs, inventory tracking documents, currency envelopes, release authorization forms and property tags.
“The Attorney General and I believe that this manual gives law-enforcement agencies the tools they need to run effective and secure property and evidence rooms, and we encourage all agencies to compare their current procedures and facilities to those outlined in the manual,” Yost said.
A full copy of this manual is available online.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 6,000 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.
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