POLICE PROPERTY ROOM CHANGES
New Rules For Handling Sensitive Evidence
On November 28, 2007 new procedures were put into place by the Madison Police Department for the temporary release of sensitive evidence. These changes were made in direct response to evidence recovered from a one-car crash site where off duty Madison Police Detective Jeffrey Hughes was seriously injured.
Officers seeking the temporary release of money, firearms, drugs, & items of very high monetary value, now need documented approval from a commanding officer before such evidence is released from the property room. Prior to November 28 sworn personnel were able to sign out evidence without a commanding officer's authorization. The system was -and still is- configured to thoroughly document the chain of custody, and all indications are that the system works well, that the property room provides a good, accountable, tracking system. A paper trail exists for all occasions when property is moved and clerks are able to ascertain where evidence is at any point in time.
There are many legitimate reasons for evidence to be temporarily released from the property room. Evidence is often "checked out" for photographing, processing, and testing. It maybe needed for witness or prosecutorial viewing. Evidence is taken to court where it is entered into the record as an exhibit. Even evidence earmarked for destruction is sometimes needed by investigators. For instance, new drug evidence may need to be compared with old drug evidence.
The immediate changes made to property room protocol on November 28 are designed to make the system more proactive while maintaining the integrity already built into the existing chain of custody procedures.
Madison Police Department personnel are continuing their assessment of all property room and evidentiary procedures and more changes will be made as necessary. The goal is to protect the integrity of evidence and to provide a system for which the public will have the highest confidence and trust.
The Dane County Sheriff's investigation into the Hughes' crash is ongoing, and until it is complete the Madison Police Department is unable to comment-. However, once the investigation is complete Chief Noble Wray will speak publicly about this issue.
- Joel DeSpain, 266-4897