Some Philadelphia police officers assigned to lift fingerprints at crime scenes use interoffice mail to send those prints to the identification unit, threatening their use as evidence, the Philadelphia Daily News reports. Legal experts said the practice jeopardizes the integrity of the prints and compromises the chain of custody required for evidence to be admitted at trial. The department has ordered uniformed officers who lift prints to deliver them by hand.
Last month, uniformed officers were made responsible for processing burglary scenes in cases where less than $25,000 was reported stolen. Said one officer of the evidence problem, “Everybody’s heard of ‘just mailing it in,’ but this is ridiculous.” One source said the situation reflected “a command problem.” “These cops didn’t just decide on their own to use the mails,” the source said. “Everybody’s pressed for time and I can see some sergeant saying, ‘Don’t go down there, just mail it.’ ”