Thursday, March 20, 2008


What I'm reading: Strangers in Death, by Nora Roberts

Last night the Citizen's Police Academy Alumni toured the Evidence facility. I was astounded at how much stuff they have to keep. Thousands and thousands of square feet of storage. Everything from the expected rooms filled with guns and drugs (still coming down from the cannabis high in the drug room) to an area that looked more like a Home Depot aisle. Doors. Yep, doors. Back in the day, if there was evidence on the door, they brought the whole thing in. And they have to store 'found' stuff as well--the jet ski that slipped its moorings and was found floating across the lake. And bikes. You could fill a Sears store with all the bikes they find. And tires. And wire and pipe (construction theft is a biggie).

Everything is computerized. With a case number, any piece of evidence can be located in its precise position in the warehouse. Almost everything small enough is stored in boxes, in manila envelopes. They try to keep 'like' stuff together. Shelves of baseball bats and other weapons used for whacking on people are in one area. With the computerized system, it's not vital to store everything from a single case in the same place, especially when evidence gets turned in over a period of time.

Their biggest challenge? Getting stuff OUT once it's no longer needed. Evidence from homicides has to hang around just about forever. Following the law and notifying those who have to be notified if evidence is being disposed of takes longer than their manpower permits; it's easier to keep it. They have 5 employees who do nothing but get rid of the evidence they no longer need. But it still comes in faster than it goes out.

What do they do with things that won't be needed in relation to a case? Some of it can be used by the Sheriff's Office, especially weapons and ammunition (which they turn over to the range). The S.O. supports the local "Children's Safety Village" and there are policies in place for donating items so the funds get back to them. They used to auction stuff off, but the Sheriffs had to set up everything, pay the expenses, and then the money went into the general fund, and they never saw any of it, so they stopped doing that.

Some "insider" information. Practical jokes: Years back, they sent a woman employee upstairs to get a case box. Someone was hiding in the box to scare her. He did. Took a long time before she'd go up there again.

Policy changes: In the weapons room, paperwork was shredded when it was no longer needed -- until someone missed a .22 cartridge and it exploded in the shredder. Pieces hit the officer doing the shredding in the forehead -- could have been in the eye.

All in all, an interesting, informative and fun night. And if my husband reads this, maybe he'll add a comment -- our class divided into smaller groups, and he went with another guide.


Dara Edmondson said...

Sounds really interesting. Five people to get rid of stuff and they still can't shrink the collection!

Terry Odell said...

Probably because they have over twice that many people receiving new stuff! It's amazing what they're responsible for -- and they have to protect the chain of evidence all the way through.