DID you know that police investigators posting crime investigation reports or photographs on the social media or releasing them to any individual without any authority from their superiors are in for big trouble?
This bad practice was highly-evident anew in the case of Major Kristian Ace Sularte, a Philippine National Police Academy graduate who shot himself to death inside his car in Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat last September 14.
Reports said that Sularte was found dead on the driver’s seat of his silver Mitsubishi Mirage which was parked at his family’s yard in Purok Osmeña in Bagumbayan municipality. Investigators recovered a spent casing inside the vehicle and ruled that it was a suicide case.
However, a day after the incident, the last message of Sularte to his superior cropped up in the social media, apparently lifted from his mobile phone which was recovered inside his car.
The question is: who forwarded the long message which contained Sularte’s angry words to his superior in the social media?
Officials said it was contrary to a PNP instruction that all Scene-of-the-Crime-Operations or SOCO reports, laboratory reports, crime scene photographs or any other related record of processing shall be released only to the requesting party except upon court order.
The PNP Crime Laboratory said that the “same shall not be posted in social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and the like or shared nor sent thru e-mail to anybody or office without legal authority.”
“Violation of any of these procedures shall be ground for automatic investigation without prejudice to the filing of appropriate administrative and criminal offenses,” a PNP Crime Lab memorandum says.
The same memorandum states that request from other government offices, family of victims, suspects and their counsels shall not be granted without written directive from the Chief,PNP.
It means that all SOCO records shall be treated as evidence subject to the chain of custody. Thus, reproduction of the same other than the required case folder for submission to the Crime Lab headquarters, the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, prosecution and courts is not allowed.
As part of its effort to achieve world-class investigation, the PNP leadership has sought the full implementation of existing guidelines on investigation of major crimes in the country specifically when it comes to the observance of the so-called ‘Golden Hours’ or the first 72-hours of a crime investigation, the Journal Group was told.
Officials said that in particular, existing guidelines from the PNP-DIDM should be strictly followed by all police investigators across the country specifically those assigned to violent cases as the rule says that those violating the directive court strict penalties.
The PNP-DIDM had stressed that those found violating the directive need to speedily solve a crime and arrest and convict the perpetrators will find themselves facing criminal or administrative charges that may cause their suspension or either dismissal from the service. The rule was made during the term of General-now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong and has not been rescinded since then.
Under the PNP-DIDM Investigative Directive No. 2015-01, first responders, investigators and members of the PNP Crime Laboratory are required to strictly follow the PNP Field Manual regarding the matter.
They include Rule 22 of the Revised 2013 PNP Operational Procedures, the Standard Operating Procedure No. ODIDM-2011-008 re-Conduct of Scene of Investigation, the Revised 2014 Crime Laboratory Scene-of-the-Crime-Operations or SOCO Manual; and the Inter-Agency Protocol on Explosive-Related Incidents Investigation.
First and foremost, the directive states that ‘only duly-trained investigators can process the crime scene. Thus, the Investigator-on-Case or IOC is required to make a general assessment of the crime scene, take a cautious walk-through, jot down notes to extensively document important factors and establish the evidence most likely to be encountered.