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Evidence Collection Preservation and Presentation for Civil Litigation

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 51 Issue: 11 Dated: November 2003 Pages: 60-61,64,65
Kimberly Colwell
Date Published
November 2003
4 pages
This article discusses ways to safeguard law enforcement officers against civil lawsuits filed because of inefficient crime scene evidence collection.
Many lawsuits are won and lost based on the quality of evidence presented at trials; much evidence that is critical to civil police litigation is often lost, destroyed, sold, or never collected. This article discusses the importance of a through collection of evidence at a crime scene, and describes the problems that ensue for criminal investigators who do not possess detailed photographs or transcripts taken at a crime scene. Equally critical to taking crime scene photographs is the booking of them into evidence, preserving photographic negatives, and the careful cataloguing of all photographs and negatives. Often crimes are not fully investigated or tried until many years after they occur, and without the careful cataloguing and preserving of crime scene data, witnesses are likely to demonstrate a poor recall of events when called to testify. Focusing on the presentation of crime scene investigation evidence, the article notes that the presentation of evidence to a jury often conveys more than the actual object being offered because such presentations tell stories about the police department and how it has handled the criminal investigation. Every law enforcement agency needs to have in place clear and concise polices related to the collection, maintenance, and destruction of evidence collected from crime scene investigations. The article suggests that efficient collection, preservation, and presentation of crime scene data will better protect police officers engaged in civil litigations.