Law and Order: Police Evidence Rooms Learn from Warehouse Tech

Law and Order: Police Evidence Rooms Learn from Warehouse Tech

Police work is primarily focused outside the police station, in the community, and that’s as it should be. There’s a satisfaction, even a glamor, to being out on the streets keeping the community safe and secure. This outward focus sometimes means that the station itself – the place of dull paperwork and desk jobs – suffers from a lack of public attention and administrative funding. Support facilities like evidence storage and property rooms may lag behind other state-of-the-art policing technology, and that can mean the efforts of front-line police work may be rendered fruitless when a case goes to trial with missing or inadmissible evidence.

Public safety expert Kathy Marks, writing in Law and Order Magazine, interviewed current and former police officers regarding the need for better evidence storage and property room technology. A good inventory system was their Number One recommendation, a system that could identify and track every item connected to a case. Missing evidence or a broken chain of custody will derail an otherwise strong criminal case.

Just as important, the interviewees reported, was a system that could schedule the return, destruction, or retention of each item. Even when a police department has a carefully maintained intake inventory system, a backlog of outdated, unneeded evidence and property take up valuable – and scarce – storage space. Overcrowded storage inevitably leads to the damage or loss of some items, increasing the challenge of making a case.

The outward-facing side of police work has for some time employed technology to make the job safer and more efficient, with everything from smart duty lockers to mobile laptop and tablet charging stations. Now the administrative side is getting its own tech applications, particularly for managing the inventories of the evidence and property rooms. Commonly used in warehousing and logistics, bar coding and RFID technologies are proving especially useful in public safety settings. Easy-to-generate bar codes identify individual items, and RFID tags provide locational tracking information as well as identification. Coupled with space-saving high-density mobile shelving for property, and secure transfer and storage lockers for evidence, these automated inventory systems maintain a clear chain of custody and keep the storage footprint manageable.

Written policies and procedures are also an important part of a well-run evidence and property rooms. Marks’ interview subjects emphasized that managing property and evidence isn’t for everyone. People with a warehouse inventory background or military quartermaster experience tend to excel in the management of police evidence and property rooms.

Good management of property and evidence storage plays a vital role in law and order. With the right combination of personnel and technology, this undervalued sector of public safety can be a big contributor to the criminal justice system.

 

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Built For First Responders: The Station Design Awards

Built For First Responders: The Station Design Awards

The Oscars and the Emmys may be better known, but the Station Design Awards, honoring outstanding fire station design, have a much more direct effect on communities across America. When fire stations are designed to support first responders’ wellbeing, communities benefit from better firefighting and EMT service. And when stations are designed to encourage interaction with the community, everyone benefits from better fire prevention awareness and involvement.

Fire stations present some unique design challenges, including:

  • equipment contaminated by hazardous materials encountered in fires
  • engines’ carbon monoxide exhaust intruding into fire station living areas
  • common areas that allow for multiple activities without noise or space conflicts
  • secure storage for bulky “turnout” protective gear, uniforms, and personal items
  • sleeping areas that promote good sleep habits for high-functioning first responders

Last year’s award winners came from all parts of the U.S., from Washington State to Texas to Ohio to South Carolina. The judges looked particularly at zone designs (separating contaminated “hot” zones from the “cold” zone of living areas); sleeping areas that balanced isolation against privacy needs; and fire station building security. In stations where interactions with the public are common, and even encouraged, any access to administrative and living areas still has to be controlled. Equipment, turnout gear, and firefighters’ personal property must be stored safely in cages and lockers.

Writing in Firehouse.com, Janet Wilmoth reviewed station design trends reported by architects involved in station design. In addition to green design and LEED certification, these design professionals are seeing more indoor recreation spaces – which help reduce stress and build camaraderie – and the addition of community rooms and small walk-in clinics which improve outreach to the neighborhoods served by these fire stations.

This year’s Station Design Awards will be announced in November. Best of luck to all the entrants, along with thanks to first responders everywhere for their service.

 

Photo © MonkeyBusiness / AdobeStock