Evidence management is defined as the administration and control of evidence related to an event in order for it to be utilized to prove the circumstances of an event.
Every piece of evidence should be preserved of its integrity before it may be utilized in court or tested by independent parties. Hence, every item in the evidence room should be looked after carefully.
Despite the fact that every agency is aware of the need for having a pristine chain of custody, it is still frequently mishandled due to the challenges they are facing. We can all agree that an evidence room is not as simple as recording and keeping when dealing with thousands of pieces of evidence and the pressure of maintaining a proper record and safekeeping.
Keeping Evidence Room Under Control
Thousands of crimes are committed each year, resulting in an increasing amount of evidence being held in warehouses. From collecting to documentation to processing and storage, it’s already a tedious process. Keeping the evidence chain of custody and securing it while maintaining it is another challenging task.
Evidence room inventory checking and auditing are critical to ensuring the integrity and overall process. It depends on the agency’s preference when they conduct the audit, but it is important to do so for various reasons.
Stories of missing and stolen evidence are common. These are caused by disorganization and low visibility.
One particular reason is to ensure that all evidence is present and properly accounted for. By taking evidence and physically checking them, you can be certain that it is still where it should be. By doing this, you’re not just ensuring that the items you’re looking for are in their designated location, you’re also checking for items that aren’t supposed to be there.
Auditing inventories can avoid not only misplaced evidence, but also helps in preventing missing items, especially when high-value evidence is involved, such as money, drugs, and guns.
Best Practices for Evidence Room Management
Another way to keep the evidence room under control is to follow these practices:
- Keeping a correct and complete record.
- Documentation is commonly taken for granted. Evidence technicians, managers, and other parties involved are sometimes unaware of the importance of detailed documentation until something goes wrong. Evidence could be misplaced or lose its value when improperly handled.
- Keeping the evidence’s value and integrity.
- Documentation is useless if the evidence’s value and integrity are jeopardized. Keep sensitive evidence, such as biological and other high-value evidence in storage that fits its condition. For keeping the evidence’s integrity, there’s no other best way but to keep an excellent chain of custody.
- Automate the process.
- Most evidence rooms now have a system in place for documenting, preserving, or auditing objects on a regular basis. This is a sensible move for agencies that have transitioned to using an evidence management system. Things can be automated to save time and ensure that the chain of custody protocols are flawless.
Evidence Management Systems
Evidence is categorized depending on its types, such as weapons, biological items, properties, and documents. Each category requires corresponding storage to maintain its value. An evidence room can expand from rooms, racks, shelves, to multiple locations depending on the types of evidence on hand and the inventory level.
With multiple locations in the evidence room, it’s hard to pinpoint where every item is located, especially those ones that have been in store for a very long time. Without proper auditing, these items might also be misplaced or lost eventually. Checking evidence details and auditing is no longer an exhausting process with the help of an evidence management system. These solutions can help with the easy location of items, automated management, auditing, and reporting.
Reasons to Adopt an Evidence Management System
- Search option and visual map. Evidence management software includes a search feature that makes it simple to locate stuff. Others even have a visual map that shows you what’s going on in the evidence room from a bird’s eye view. There are also indicators that show where items are and the ability to move them between locations.
- Activity history. It provides an activity history for auditing purposes. Information such as who, when, and why evidence is transferred, checked-in/out, or released is documented and accessible anytime for reporting.
- Track miscellaneous inventory and supplies. Personnel can track not only evidence, but also miscellaneous supplies and inventories, such as lab supplies, equipment, forms, and packaging kits, that they need to conduct their jobs.
Visibility is crucial when controlling a large number of important items. You can’t just rely on a list that provides only basic information. By adopting a centralized system like this, agencies can keep the evidence room under control and preserve the integrity of each piece of evidence at the same time.