Bryce Harper is a great baseball player. He’s trained for many years so that he can now proudly say that he is a professional. He’s one of many experts who bring attention and notoriety to their arenas. Yo-Yo Ma, for instance, is a renowned cellist known the world over for his musical prowess. And Neil Degrasse Tyson is a celebrated astrophysicist. All three are exceptional at what they do. What is also true of those three is that Harper can’t play the cello, Yo-Yo Ma doesn’t know a quasar from a yo-yo (sorry, I couldn’t resist) and Tyson can’t hit a curveball.
We all have our specialties. We all have our interests. America’s public safety officers are in this way no different from anyone else. In their case, they are trained to fight crime, to protect civilians and to, overall, keep the peace. The ways in which they do that are many, but the bulk of the work requires them to be in the public; indeed, their interpersonal skills are paramount. It’s more than what they do; it’s who they are.
Consider the Evidence
Today, one of the most critical aspects of the public safety realm is proper evidence storage. Though the subject has been in the news most recently due to the concern over handling of sexual assault kits, it’s worth reiterating the many ways proper evidence storage helps ensure that justice is served. Bear these things in mind when deciding whether or not to seek the services of an evidence storage expert.
1. Assess the Scene
Anything can be evidence. Something as small as a wrench or as large as a bicycle or a door can all be submitted as evidentiary objects in a court case. As such, police departments and sheriff’s offices around the country are collecting more and more items – of all kinds. Keeping them secured and organized is critical. How does your space measure up? Is it packed to the rafters? Is it lockable? If you collect DNA evidence, is it properly stored?
2. Consider Longevity
As we mentioned above, “evidence” can collect. Because those items could be used not only in prosecutorial trials but in appeals court – which could be years down the line – it’s important to think about how an organization might facilitate ease of access. Some law enforcement evidence storage facilities have been “manned” (in the generic sense) by one person for decades. Could a newbie easily find everything they needed to find on Day One?
3. Weigh the Storage Options
Just as there are all kinds of evidence, so are there all kinds of shelving and storage options available. We’re not just talking about the difference between small and large, either. Are you storing bikes? Weapons? Drugs and/or cash? What about DNA evidence? Segmenting the types of evidence in your storage area goes a long way toward adding a real control over your inventory.
4. Safeguard What’s Important
It ought to go without saying that law enforcement pros know the merits of locking up and keeping things safe. You might even say it’s key to the job. This is certainly true when it comes to evidence storage. Maintaining proper logs and access points/passes is a critical aspect of any facility’s chain-of-custody. If you decide to go with a lockable system, you’ve got plenty of design options to help you select just the right combination of products.
Public Safety Evidence Storage Solutions
You’re trained to fight crime. We’re trained in storing evidence and equipment. Just as you automatically notice aberrant behavior, we gravitate to areas that need a little public safety storage TLC. To us, spaces that aren’t optimized look… well… a little suspicious.
Here are just a few trends in evidence storage for you to think about.
Law enforcement today is refocusing its efforts on best practices, accreditation and adhering to internationally accepted standards in the field of evidence management. Doing things “the way we’ve always done it” could lead to a miscarriage of justice.
Sure, some items can be stored on shelves. Others? Pass-through evidence lockers are the way to go. Whether an item needs to be returned to the evidence technician for proper labeling or is being securely given to an officer to take to court, this added security measure ensures proper chain-of–custody.
Photograph & Release
In some instances, agencies are allowed to photograph evidence and then release it. This method is also considered for items that are larger, awkward or hazardous to handle. Might this be right for your organization?
Electronic Evidence Management
A small chip, barcode or other RFID device is attached to various pieces of evidence, and each is then assigned its own identifier.
Off-Site Evidence Storage
Just as many organizations choose to store some of their files or other items at a location away from their office, some law enforcement offices choose this option for evidence. Many agencies, especially in smaller towns, simply don’t have enough room to store their growing collections. Choosing to store some items off-site not only frees up physical space, but can save money.
Regulations vary from state to state, and many more DNA samples are acquired every year. Compact cool storage systems – whether in the form of refrigerated lockers, air-conditioned rooms or off-site warehouses – will prolong the useful life of evidence.
Sexual Assault Kit Storage
The establishment of designated areas for these kits is fast becoming a priority. These sexual assault kits, some of which were assembled decades ago, have the potential to convict or exonerate defendants accused of sexual assault. The advances in DNA technology makes focusing on establishing a well-organized system and a secure chain of custody essential.
It’s not always easy to know if your evidence storage area should be – or even can be – improved. As the saying goes, though, it’s always best to be aware of your surroundings. Take a look around your evidence storage, and think about where you want your organization or department to be. How close are you to that vision?
If you want to learn how to take the next steps, it’s always a good idea to call for backup.