One of the many ways that we measure ourselves and assure you that we operate legally and ethically is by auditing our property and evidence function.
We come into possession of many kinds and types of property for a variety of reasons. We seize evidence of crimes–items that give information about the guilt or innocence of a person accused of a crime. We get all types of things: money, guns, drugs, TVs, clothing—all kinds of things. We seize contraband items, things that are against the law to possess. Illegal drugs for example. Sometimes people give us guns for safekeeping if a family member has expressed suicidal thoughts, as another example.
We take thousands of items every year and we must catalogue and manage these items until they can be returned to their rightful owner or be disposed of by one of the ways permitted under statute. Michigan law is quite specific about how police handle and dispose of property. Some items, like evidence in murder cases, must be kept forever–provisions must be made for that type of long-term storage.
In our department, access to the evidence room is highly controlled. It is under video surveillance all the time and only a select number of people have access to the room–I am not one of them. I must go to the evidence custodian to gain access to the room. It is all about limiting who has access.
Every now and then you read about police departments that mishandled evidence –or about departments that have members charged with crimes for stealing things that they got by virtue of being police. We never want to be one of them.
Our mission statement says:
We value, and are dedicated to, honest, loyal, and truthful behavior. We believe in the basic human right of all people to be treated equally, with dignity, courtesy, and respect under all circumstances.
Because we value integrity and take our ethics seriously, we submit ourselves to an outside audit every 5 years. The audit has been done by Robert Doran five times over the time I have been the chief. Doran is the foremost authority on police evidence management in the nation.
I am happy to report to you that we passed with flying colors. Congratulations to Lieutenant Ryan Gagnon, Technical Services Division Commander and Property Clerk, Gloria Guy for a successful audit.