So what makes for a good evidence locker room? Obviously it begins with the evidence locker itself. Most law enforcement agencies agree that prosecutors cannot win cases where there is not a clear, secure and reliable chain of custody during the storage of the evidence that was collected in the field.
Evidence lockers must possess the following characteristics:
- It must be secure. By allowing only certain individuals access to the locker through a key or an advanced electronic padlock system, you have protected the contents from many hands; limiting it to a few hands who have actual access. Many electronic locks have a digital ‘memory’ where software collects data on which user accessed which locker at what time. Locking systems such as these help protect that chain of custody and offer definitive proof as to who had access and when.
- Seeing is believing. Some agencies use ‘Clear View” lockers to allow a quick visual inspection of the locker’s contents. Now if these lockers may compromise some aspects of the evidence, you can always install a blend of Clear View and regular, solid lockers in the evidence lock up area.
- The lockers must be able to hold a wide variety of different sizes. Evidence can take the form of many shapes and odd things, from blood samples to guns and even car tires. Having an evidence locker room set up that can accommodate a myriad of shapes and sizes—not to mention potentially dangerous items such as knives, firearms and drugs—is one key component you need to think about before ordering those evidence lockers.
- Access. This is crucial since crime does not happen during regular work hours. Having an evidence lock up area in which police officers can securely deposit evidence during any point in time without having to wait for a CSI type to unlock the area. Having a ‘pass-through lockers’ that allow officers to drop off evidence on one side, lock the door and CSI technicians to retrieve it from the other side through a lock up door work very well. But if you have a smaller police station, where there is a low crime rate and evidence isn’t as overwhelming then perhaps a pass through locker isn’t as feasible.
- Video security. Does your evidence locker area provide a way for monitoring it in real time, as well as recording the events for the future if something does in fact go wrong? Look into installing a video surveillance system that covers each and every inch of the evidence room—not only that, but one that will also record every aspect of the CSI evidence testing and storing process as well.
- Keeping it cool. Sometimes evidence lockers will need to be kept in a refrigerated area to preserve that evidence keeping it at a certain temperature in order to preserve it. For these types of locker set ups, it is best to speak with the forensic department about their needs before ordering lockers and just placing them in rooms that are either too hot, or too cold. Keep in mind that humidity also destroys key forensic evidence as well.
- Does it go bang? Face it; most evidence will come to you in the form of a weapon. Absolute security is essential to ensure that weapon does not return to a life of crime. By having secure locking capabilities, heavy gauge construction and limited access only helps prevent a weapon from being stolen from the evidence room. Also take this concept a step further and examine your officer’s turn out locker situation. Do they have the means necessary to lock up their side arms and long rifles? In their gear lockers have you allowed a place where these firearms, Taser guns and other dangerous but non-lethal tools can be securely locked up and stored?
By addressing these few simple concepts, you can make your law enforcement evidence lock up more secure and safe, while preserving the chain of custody you need to provide in order to put the bad guys away for a very, very long time.