‘Golden hours’ in crime investigation is crucial

October 15, 2019

THE next chief of the Philippine National Police has to see to it that there will be 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 Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management 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 who will be found violating the directive needed 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 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 The rule was made during the term of General-now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong and has not been rescinded since then.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 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 are 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.

The PNP manual says that the IOIC needs to define the extent of the area to be searched and the personnel, organization and equipment needed to make specific assignments since these are needed to develop a general theory of the crime scene to set his plan in motion.

The PNP-DIMD issued the directive amid several complaints regarding the non-observance of some policemen in the investigation of crimes, particularly crimes of violence. “Glaring violations of existing guidelines were committed during the ‘Golden Hour’ or the first 72 hours of a major case,” Magalong previously told the Journal Group.

Magalong said the ‘Golden Hours’ or the first 72 hours of the initial phase of investigation of a major case such as murder, homicide or kidnappings/abduction is really crucial.

Thus, the PNP-DIDM which is now headed by Major General Elmo Francis O. Sarona implemented a policy that the IOC shall have the full responsibility over the crime scene during the entire processing. It is thus mandatory that the IOC remain at the crime scene until the termination of the investigation since he is tasked to fully supervise the entire SOCO operations and provide all necessary support to our Crime Lab investigators.

The rule is clear: it is mandatory for the IOC and the SOCO team to ‘work as a team’ at all times particularly during the processing of the crime scene and when attending or holding case conferences.

“Non-compliance by any party to this directive shall be reported to the Regional Investigation and Detective Management which shall report the same to the Pre-Charge Evaluation and Investigation Division of the PNP-DIDM for proper action,” the rule says.

Any violation of the policy shall be a cause for filing of appropriate administrative charges against the erring policemen pursuant to National Police Commission Memorandum Circular 2007-001.

In the wake of the PNP-DIDM directive, the PNP Crime Laboratory also issued a memorandum in 2015 to the chiefs of the Regional, District, Provincial and City Crime Laboratory Offices reiterating their procedures when it comes to the conduct of SOCO and control of reports, photographs and other related records.

Officials admitted in 2015 that some Crime Lab personnel are not adhering to standard procedures in the conduct of SOCO particularly when it comes to ensuring the presence of IOCs who have the full responsibility over the crime investigation.