Throughout the United States, there are stories about mishandled crime scene evidence. The blame for these incidents often falls on the property managers within law enforcement agencies. However, these issues typically occur during the chain of custody when agencies process, store, and track items in and out of evidence storage. The following guide details how to incorporate police evidence locker storage into your facility's building design, as well as the various locker options you can find.
Planning for Police Evidence Lockers and Building Design
There are various factors to account for when planning a building design that includes an evidence room. This evidence storage often includes biological evidence, money, narcotics, stolen property, weapons, and more. If the evidence doesn't have property storage or tracking, there's a risk that it could get lost, mishandled, or stolen. The following tips can help during evidence room planning. Click to learn more about police department space-saving storage solutions.
Conduct Site Visits
Visit other police department facilities to see how they organize their evidence. Use their experiences to learn more about collecting, storing, and tracking items in and out of an evidence room. Use this information for determining what type of police evidence locker works and which aren't as effective. Then, take the data from the site visit and incorporate it into your building design plans. Watch evidence locker videos.
Plan for Convenient Access
Plan to install each evidence locker in the report writing room. Typically, the report writing room is where officers tag and package evidence. Therefore, it's convenient to have evidence storage in this same area.
Maximize Efficiency Using a Pass-Thru System
When working out your building design plans, it's efficient to put the report writing room and property room next to each other. That way, you can incorporate pass-through evidence lockers for police departments into the plan. Taking this step helps protect the evidence's chain of custody.
Look for Secure Locking Systems
Some police evidence lockers have a gravity lock. That type of locking system isn't secure, and breaches can occur quickly. Instead of using gravity locking systems, look for a police evidence locker with a smart lock or another security system type.
Account for Varying Sizes
Evidence isn't all the same size. Just like anything else, it arrives at the evidence room in all shapes and sizes. Therefore, it's beneficial to incorporate evidence storage lockers in various sizes. That way, if something large comes in, it can fit into the evidence locker.
Types of Evidence Lockers
Evidence locker solutions must come in various sizes for accomodating the range of materials police stations and courthouses receive. This evidence storage should also include refrigerator compartments and video or mail slots. Incorporating many types of evidence storage systems help solve many challenges agencies face, including:
- Multi-departmental collaborations: Handling evidence involves more than one person. Police officers might label and package items before they go to a technician for processing. Then, it could move to a courthouse.
- Evidence attributes: Agencies receive these items in various forms, including cumbersome, hazardous, and large items.
- Resource limitations: It isn't uncommon for agencies to not have enough evidence technicians to process everything coming in.
- Storage demands: Every jurisdiction in the United States has separate rules regarding the disposal or release of evidence.
- Technological hurdles: Despite the many benefits of transforming evidence management systems to electronic systems, it involves a steep learning curve.
As agencies work to overcome these challenges, it's still essential for them to keep evidence security a priority. The following sections outline various evidence room lockers that are available.
Pass-Thru Evidence Lockers
Pass-through evidence lockers for police departments install directly into walls. Police officers put evidence into the locker. Then, evidence technicians can retrieve it from the other side. One of the most notable features of a pass-thru evidence locker is that it can include security features to prevent tampering. Examples of these security features include:
- Anti-pry tabs
- Double-walled doors
- Front lock-out systems
- Keyless deposit security
- Multi-point deadbolt locking system
- Welded doors
Two-column seven door pass-thru evidence locker technical specs:
- Dimensions: 36" Wide x 82" Tall and 24" Deep
- Frame construction: 18 gauge steel
- Door construction: 18 gauge steel with a nickel-plated door handle
- Base construction: 14 gauge still permanently affixed to each evidence locker
- Separate keys for loading and retrieving evidence
Non-Pass-Thru Evidence Lockers
Non-pass-thru lockers provide a solution for agencies that need temporary evidence storage. When an officer recovers crime scene evidence, these lockers help maintain a secure chain of custody. When officers or other agents bring evidence into a law enforcement facility, it's logged and deposited into non-pass-thru evidence lockers. That temporary storage is in place to protect evidence until it transfers to an evidence storage room.
Technical specs for four non-pass-thru evidence lockers with 22 openings
- Dimensions: 8'0" Wide x 2'0" Deep
- Frame construction: 18 gauge steel
- Door construction: 18 gauge steel with a flush-mounted nickel-plated door handle
- Base construction: 14 gauge steel permanently affixed to each evidence locker
- Locking system: One-piece removable stainless steel push-button lock design
Non-pass-thru lockers are convenient because officers can deposit evidence 24-hours daily without evidence technicians being present. When officers use this type of evidence locker, they must swipe their key card and enter their identification code to open the door. After putting the evidence inside, the officer must push a button on the keypad to secure it in the locker. The evidence technician uses this same procedure to retrieve evidence from the locker.
Refrigerated evidence lockers are available in large and small sizes. They feature engineering that keeps the lockers at a consistent temperature ranging between 38 and 42 degrees. Those temperatures help keep biological evidence storage secure and well-preserved.
Suppose an officer or technician leaves a door open for too long. In that case, refrigerated evidence lockers have built-in alarms to warn of temperature fluctuations. These lockers also feature interchangeable lockable inserts for accomodating the changes in sizes of storage boxes and containers.
Technical specs for a stainless steel refrigerated evidence locker:
- Dimensions: 36" x 24" x 82"
- Two-column configuration: 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 door units
- Three column configuration: 9, 15, 18, and 24 door units
- Push-button locks on every door
- Pre-drilled mounting holes on the locker's base and sides
- Frame construction: 18 gauge steel
- Door construction: 18 gauge steel
- Base construction: 14 gauge steel
- Magnetic seals on the outer door
- Powered by 115V/15 AMP
This type of evidence locker is available as a pass-thru or non-pass-thru unit. It's possible to build these units directly into other evidence lockers. Refrigerated units offer the same performance, reliability, and security as a standard evidence locker.
The Importance of Police Evidence Lockers
Handling evidence correctly plays a pivotal role in law enforcement. There's a wide variety of evidence officers collect, including biologicals, clothing, furniture, utensils, and weapons. Because these items can connect to a type of crime and become part of a trial, compliance must be part of every facility's procedures.
- Organization and Personnel Considerations: Agencies should ensure they're maintaining an organized and secure evidence storage room. Staffing that area accordingly must also be a priority. That includes assigning sworn and trained professionals to oversee it to ensure compliance and other expectations are met.
- Standard Operating Procedures: Having Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place for evidence storage ensures that members of the department understand the requirements for handling, packaging, and storing items.
- Checks and Balances: Handling evidence is more than organizing it, determining who oversees it and creating an SOP. It would be best to determine how it gets checked in, who retrieves it from lockers, where to store items, and how long the agency can hold each item.
- Audits and Inspections: Conduct random and scheduled audits and inspections of the evidence storage room. That way, you're sure officers and evidence technicians are handling evidence properly.
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Southwest Solutions Group® has expertise in designing and installing police evidence locker units. Before the design process begins, schedule a free consultation to determine your agency's needs. Learn more about this process by speaking to an evidence locker specialist by phone or via email. Click here to learn more.