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Evidence Storage: Best Practices for Optimal Organization
The storage needs of police departments and correctional facilities across the country depend on space and financial resources. Still, every police department knows that maintaining an uninterrupted chain of custody for their evidence is critical. When proper police evidence room best practices and procedures are in place, they cut down on clutter, making it easier for officers to locate items and ensuring that evidence is not mishandled or misplaced.
Organize Your Evidence Room
With the proper research and planning, you can easily organize your police evidence room. To start, consider how much space you have and if this will be a long-term solution. These will be your two most significant factors in designing a space that is easy to keep organized and secure.
Think about how your team will process the incoming evidence, document the existing evidence, and purge the evidence that is no longer needed. Some cases may require you to store evidence for up to 99 years. If you don’t have a storage plan in place, the amount of evidence you maintain can add up and negatively impact your evidence room organization.
Types of Evidence Room Organization
Our long-term evidence solutions are perfect when you have a finite amount of space to store evidence. This type of shelving stores the evidence away from the general work area while keeping it accessible to officers that may need it.
High-density storage is ideal for most evidence rooms because it is built on moving carriages with wheels attached to floor tracks, eliminating the need for access aisles. With the push of a button or a turn of a handle, you can easily roll these shelves along the tracks to create the space you need to access the evidence you’re looking for. Once you’re finished, roll the shelves back together to free up floor space.
You can store newer evidence that needs to be processed in an evidence locker. We offer several locker options to make police evidence room procedures easier to follow. Among the most popular are:
Pass-thru evidence lockers are installed directly into the facility’s walls. An officer places the evidence into the locker on one side while the evidence technician retrieves it from the other. By placing it in the locker, the officer effectively puts the critical evidence directly into the secured storage facility, which helps maintain the chain of custody.
Non-pass-through evidence lockers are ideal for temporary evidence storage. For example, officers need to deposit evidence 24 hours a day. Using this type of locker means the evidence technician does not need to be present on the other side for the officer to deposit the evidence into the custody of the storage facility.
Using an identification code to open the locker, an officer can insert the evidence, where it will stay until the evidence technician arrives. This keeps the evidence safe and secure until it can be processed and properly stored.
Some evidence needs to be kept at a specific temperature to avoid being harmed. Refrigerated evidence locker lockers stay at a consistent temperature, keeping biological evidence well-preserved. They even have built-in alarms that will sound in case of temperature fluctuations that could damage the evidence.
When coming up with your department’s evidence storage best practices, it can be challenging to determine how and where to store firearms. All evidence needs to be secured, but it’s especially important to follow safety procedures.
There are two main ways that a department can store firearms: evidence bags and evidence boxes. Evidence gun bags are made using a heavy-duty polyester fabric that allows them to be hung on gun racks, increasing the number of firearms stored in one area. If you’re looking for a less expensive and reusable option, you may want to explore storage boxes.
Secure Your Evidence
Security is a high priority when it comes to maintaining your police evidence room. Regardless of which type of storage you install and utilize in your facility, it is important to ensure there is a protocol in place for safety and security purposes.
Preserving the evidence collection is vital in forensic investigation. Evidence storage lockers should only be accessible through the use of a keycard and/or password. Having this electronic record of who accesses the storage lockers makes it easier to maintain documentation of the chain of custody.
During the processing stage, supply your evidence technicians with everything they need to easily and clearly process the piece of evidence quickly. Providing them with the right property and evidence bags will protect your chain of custody and keep your evidence secure while making it easier for them to perform their job duties quickly and efficiently.
Quick Tips for Evidence Room Organization
When it comes to evidence storage best practices, keep these tips in mind:
Make sure your location is secure.
Determine how much square footage you have to use.
Place a high priority on security but having multiple locks and electronic access points to keep track of who is accessing the physical evidence.
Have a clear plan on how to process the incoming forensic evidence, document the existing evidence, and purge the evidence that is no longer needed.
How Southwest Solutions Group Can Help
We believe protecting the chain of custody is critical to the criminal justice system. To help provide this protection, we offer storage solutions for police departments and correctional facilities across the country.