Securing Evidence: A Complete Guide

December 30, 2019 Natalie Dunlap

As professionals in law enforcement, you understand how important it is to protect others and ourselves from crime. From security cameras, to locks on doors, to staying aware of our surroundings—we know that crime can happen just about anywhere. Even in your evidence room. No one wants to believe that their coworker would be capable of such a thing, but it does happen. Or someone facing trial could be so brazen as to try to obtain the evidence against them. Either way, the fact is that there are many items in your evidence room that could be of use to someone, and not having the proper controls in place threatens the integrity of your entire department. A complete, well-thought-out plan for securing your evidence room and its contents is the key to your success.

External Security Measures

The plan for securing your evidence actually starts outside the room. Consider securing the area outside your property and evidence room—the entrance, the entrance door, and other nearby areas:

Entrance Area

During working hours, on-duty personnel monitor the rooms, but you should consider after-hours as well. Let’s say you do have a lock and camera outside the evidence room. Is the area well lit? Is there an alarm system set? Consider all these steps and more when you are taking precautionary measures to secure your evidence room. If you install cameras or other security measures, make sure the supervisor has the footage in their possession. You will want to make sure you can hear and see if someone who’s unauthorized has accessed your evidence room. Adding a security alarm on entrances will give you a second layer of protection.

Entrance Door

There are 2 main things you’ll want to consider when it comes to securing the entrance to your evidence room: door material and hinge placement. The stronger and thicker the material of the door, the more secure your evidence room will be. Secondly comes the door hinge placement. It is crucial to know whether the hinges of your door will be on the inside or outside. When the door hinges are located on the exterior, it can easily be taken off and grant access to unwanted intruders.

Who Has Access?

When it comes to your evidence room, who has access? If someone requests access, are they automatically given the key, or do you have a smaller, more restricted list of individuals granted access? Keeping a safer evidence room begins with limiting access to personnel. Sometimes it’s easier to hand the key over when you may be busy, but at the end of the day, if something goes missing, it will end up being on your shoulders. Depending on your department size will determine how limited your access list should be. Do an inventory check on everyone who has been granted access or given a key to your evidence room to determine if they need to stay on the list.

Evidence Packaging and Report Writing Areas

How does your department process incoming evidence? Do you have a designated packaging and report-writing area for officers? Have you ever thought about what kind of security you have in that area? Every department’s submittal and report-writing process will vary, but each one should always be considered as part of a complete plan for securing your evidence room and its contents. Maybe you have a code or security camera on the outside of the area, but the inside shouldn’t be neglected either.

Proper Evidence Labeling

The evidence packaging area is also the last chance for your officers to make sure that the items the items they submit are properly tagged before being brought into the property and evidence room. In addition to proper packaging materials, make sure your officers have access to additional labels that have all required fields. It helps if the labels are made of a durable polysynthetic material, which can withstand very high or very low temperatures.

Internal Security Measures

Just because you have external security measures in place, does not mean you’re secure internally.
Having your evidence room neatly organized, and having a system for managing the evidence itself is key to a complete security plan.

Evidence Tracking Software

Once the labeled evidence comes into your possession, you need a system for in-processing, inventorying, checking-out, checking-in, and purging it. Having a dedicated software for tracking evidence is the perfect solution to accomplish all these tasks.

Inventory at a Glance

Can you run a report right now to give you the whereabouts of all your evidence? When it was checked in, checked out, and when it can be destroyed? Having full visibility on the status of each pieces of your evidence inventory can make a break your plan for a secure evidence room. Being able to inventory your evidence electronically through your tracking software makes the process that much easier.

User Permissions

In addition to restricting access to the evidence room itself, its important to restrict access to the evidence records. With secure evidence tracking software, user permissions can be restricted, and password-protected, so no one other than approved personnel have the ability to alter the details of a piece of evidence.

Clearly Labeled Shelves

Each piece of evidence should have a designated place to be stored. Make sure your shelves are labeled clearly, and that the shelf number for that piece of evidence is entered in with its information. Full-featured evidence tracking software can also print shelf labels to help automate the process of conducting a physical inventory.

PMI Evidence Tracker™: Part of Your Complete Plan for Securing Evidence

When coming up with a plan to keep your evidence secure, it’s important to do an inventory of all security measures you currently have in place. This means externally, and internally. PMI Evidence Tracker™ is a complete Cop Friendly evidence tracking software system that includes the software, barcode printers, barcode scanners, shelf labels, and evidence labels. It also includes a full year of unlimited support plus software updates. It has everything you need to start streamlining the process of managing your evidence before it even gets to your evidence room, and everything you need to take control of it once you receive it. PMI Evidence Tracker™ is the perfect solution for managing and securing your evidence. Contact us today to get started.