Managing Evidence Competently
To avoid claims of incompetence, investigators should implement evidence procedures and follow them. They need to make sure all evidence is dated and use some form of case management. For documentation, investigators must ensure they have backup. They should scan documents or make extra copies with dates and times for all interviews and documents for each case file, and log every phone call for every case file. Investigators must be ready to answers questions such as, “When exactly did you get that document?” and “Who gave it to you?” When investigators can answer such questions, they look competent, confident and in control. As noted above, keeping a notebook and tracking activities will help with this.
Investigators also need a method of tracking and securely storing physical evidence. At some point, the evidence may be in need of a hearing. And during the hearing, a lawyer can ask where a piece of physical evidence has been kept. If an investigator says it has been kept in his desk drawer, the lawyer will certainly ask, “How long was the evidence in the desk drawer?” and “Do other people have access to that drawer?” Of course, the implication is that the investigator is incompetent and the evidence is not credible due to the possibility it has been tampered with or altered in some way.
In one case, an investigator was given a syringe partially filled with fluid as evidence. The complainant alleged that a nurse injected this fluid into a client and that the hospital tested it. The problem was that before the investigator received the syringe, it sat in someone’s desk at the hospital for a long time. Because of the way the evidence was handled, it was useless to the investigator.
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