Importance of Vehicle Impound Inventory Policy

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Importance of Vehicle Impound Inventory Policy


Gordon Graham
Category: Law Enforcement

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol.  

There’s an old saying, what you don’t know won’t hurt you. This saying doesn’t apply here.

Every now and then, I hear a crazy story about something found in a vehicle after it was searched, impounded, and towed. I’ve heard stories about firearms and drugs left inside vehicles. Recently, I’ve heard stories about animals, and even a toddler left in a car seat, found in vehicles after they were towed.

Let that sink in for a moment. How can this happen? I’ve searched and towed a lot of vehicles in my career. Towing vehicles is a routine part of the job. The only way something as obvious as a live person or animal gets left in a towed vehicle is when it wasn’t properly searched. 

A proper inventory is generally required before a vehicle can be impounded. We can’t send a vehicle to a storage yard without knowing what might be inside. I often talk about risk, and this is an easy one.

If you impound a vehicle without conducting an appropriate inventory, what are you going to do when the owner later claims that something is missing? Laptops, fur coats, diamond earrings, briefcases full of cash, the sky is the limit. Oh, and let’s not forget about the toddler or puppy that we missed.  

Let’s not even go there. We can’t let it get to that point. There is a very simple fix. When you have the legal authority to impound a vehicle, you should conduct a proper inventory.  

I’m not going to tell you how to search a car. You’ve all been trained to do that. I’m just going to remind you that an inventory is used to document items in a vehicle that might become important later.

If you find evidence of a crime or contraband, you should seize it. If you find items of value, you should release them or properly secure and protect them. You must search the entire vehicle, including the trunk, and document the contents. When you’re done, you should be confident that you found everything. 

There’s an old saying, what you don’t know won’t hurt you. This saying doesn’t apply here. If you fail to conduct an inventory, there is no way you can know what is in that vehicle. I can assure you that items left in an unsearched vehicle can come back to haunt you later.  

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off. 

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