Tuesday, August 2, 2016
[Trinity County] Grand jury recommends tight evidence controls, procedures
While previous Trinity County grand juries have evaluated the condition of the county’s aging jail for the past several years, the 2015-16 grand jury chose to view another operational aspect: the processing, storing and disposing of evidence.
After finding deficiencies in training, supervision and accountability, the grand jury’s judicial committee decided to take a closer look at how the policy and procedure manuals are written, maintained and followed within the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office.
Specifically, the grand jury investigation focused on policy, audits/oversight, staffing, training, facilities/storage, evidence collection and purging/disposal.
In its final report issued in June, the grand jury found conflicting policies and procedures contained in two different manuals used by the Sheriff’s Department and said not all divisions are following the policies/procedures with respect to evidence.
Regarding audits and oversight, the grand jury found that no unannounced inspections or in-house audit of the evidence room have been conducted within the tenure of the current sheriff or the evidence technician who’s been on the job for seven years. It recommended that an audit be conducted immediately of all evidence held by the department, and that the department’s own policy manual regarding inspections be adhered to in the future.
The report found that the current evidence technician, a retired officer who works two to three days a week, is detail oriented, experienced and conscientious, but lacks formal training and certification appropriate for the position.
It recommended transitioning to a full-time position with the training required in handling, processing, storage and disposition of evidence. Several additional recommendations spoke to the need for greater staff training in asset forfeiture, evidence collection and processing.
Though the grand jury found the evidence room to be generally neat, orderly, secured and temperature/humidity controlled, its final report noted some deficiencies in the long-term storage of biological evidence and noted the storage of marijuana does not meet health code standards, saying a secured, well-ventilated area should be provided for drying plant material.
There were also several recommendations for improvement in the way firearms and ammunition are stored to meet state guidelines.
The report concluded with commendations for Trinity County Sheriff’s Office personnel, noting some individuals, to their credit, had recognized the need to address deficiencies prior to the grand jury inspections, highlighting past improvements and alluding to plans for both training and improvements to the existing facility.
The report noted the department is seeking training opportunities for the evidence technician and the undersheriff, and said although there are no specific plans for upgrading the existing evidence storage facility, there is discussion about possibly using the old jail for evidence storage when a new jail is built.
Sheriff Bruce Haney and the Board of Supervisors have been asked to respond to the grand jury report.
July 27, 2016
The Trinity Journal
By Sally Morris