Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Conference Notes (Part 6 of 7) Forensic Evidence Management

After a disaster, especially after the man-made type such as a bombing or other terrorist event, forensic evidence management is important. The idea is to not mess up the evidence because investigators need this vital information in order to both figure out who did it and/or preserve evidence for further investigation. So how do you manage forensic evidence?
  • After an incident, block off the crime scene and don't let anyone muck around there. You don't want evidence to be destroyed or compromised before the experts can process it.
  • "When two objects meet, there is an exchange of material from each to the other" French scientist Edward Locard. This is the basic theory of forensic evidence.
  • Photograph everything: the scene, the crowd, the evidence, etc.
  • Document everything: time of the event, weather, witness information, etc.
  • Unless you are saving a life, stay out of the crime scene. If people are dead, leave them where they fell for the investigators.
  • Suspects may attempt to escape from the scene by joining the crowds who are being evacuated.
  • All persons coming into contact with response workers should be searched for weapons.
  • Let the professionals process the scene and recover evidence. This both properly preserves the evidence and ensures the chain of custody of the evidence.
  • Forensic evidence management team members not only process the scene but they also go to the hospital and morgue with victims to process evidence from the bodies.
  • Recovery of bodies: each body and body part found is treated as evidence; always wrap the head, hands and feet before removal; all bodies and body parts should be accompanied when taken from the scene to preserve continuity of evidence; bodies and body parts should always be subject to x ray examination to establish the possible presence of evidence.
  • Beware of the media (they will stop at nothing to gain entry to the scene), those impacted by the event (people often react unreasonably after a disaster creating problems for themselves and others), and volunteers who show up to help (some will exaggerate their qualifications in order to help).

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