HPD Makes Progress In Handling Evidence
by: Laurie Johnson, October 12, 2011 9:10:33 pm
HPD's emergency communications department and the property room were awarded ISO certification. ISO is the International Organization for Standardization and uses independent auditors to certify practices and policies.
Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland says Houston has the only police department in the nation to be certified in two divisions.
"And it's very, very significant about those two divisions because obviously that's the way that we deliver basic police services — through our dispatch operations. And we have received a lot of criticism over the years about our property room. Obviously we have a new property room and now it's ISO certified, so it indicates that we're following the best practices in the industry and we're the leaders."
HPD opened its $13 million property room in 2009, after years of storing evidence in a 100-year-old factory building.
Assistant Chief Tim Ottmeier says they've gone from a situation that was embarrassing to a program that leads the country.
"We had to transition over 350,000 pieces of property into the facility. There's all kinds of procedures that must be followed with that. We have been very fortunate to have an electronic software program that now allows us to account for everything in a digitized fashion, as opposed to paper and pencil. We've gotten a brand new management team in there."
HPD requested the certification audit as part of their effort to improve their practices and reputation when it comes to handling evidence. They've long been under scrutiny for how they store and analyze evidence. Mayor Parker says the certification holds the department accountable to best practices.
"Among the problems, as you'll recall, was discovering boxes and boxes of evidence that had been misplaced, mislaid over the years. The evidence was not always in climate-controlled conditions. So as the chief said, having the new facility was the start but we had to make sure that we didn't just import old problems into a new building."
ISO auditors will come back for yearly inspections. Chief McClelland says the department is in the process of seeking ISO certification for the crime lab, but it will likely take at least a year before the lab meets the strict requirements.