Maintaining evidence integrity is necessary for any law enforcement agency for many reasons, one being that it’s the law. Along with those federal and state laws come many other regulations, standards, and best practices that agencies must comply with. The sum of those regulations should equal evidence integrity if practiced. 

Evidence room audits are a check and balance procedure for an agency’s operations. Their results demonstrate compliance with regulations, and if discrepancies are found, personnel can address the issues and bring the agency back into compliance.

There are several types of audits. Comprehensive audits are just what they sound like. They examine an evidence room’s operations from top to bottom, including security systems, documentation, tracking systems, equipment, inventories, preservation, policies, and more. Inspections focus on the cleanliness, safety, and functionality of the facility – examining its efficiency and operating effectiveness. Random audits may take a deep dive into just one area of operations or one type of evidence. Inventory audits physically account for the items stored within the facility.

Inventory audits are the focus of this piece, explaining how they help an agency maintain compliance with the law and evidence storage regulations.

Inventory Audits

Inventory audits accomplish more than just an accounting of the items stored in an evidence room. They may reveal issues or problems with documentation, tracking systems, proper preservation, personnel efficiency, and available space to keep evidence. Any of these problems can lead to noncompliance with regulations. 

Vital Compliance Issues

1. Evidence Misplacement or Loss

Inventory audits will reveal misplaced or even lost evidence. Since law enforcement agencies are responsible for safeguarding the items in their custody, their knowledge of these situations is imperative. In some cases, locating a misplaced item is an easy fix, but only in some cases. A missing item might be discovered in an area that allows it to degrade over time. A truly lost or unaccounted-for item is much more problematic. Immediately reporting a lost item is necessary, as is filing a written report on the subject. Either of these situations could negatively affect criminal case outcomes in court and, depending on the type of item lost, critically affect public perception of the agency.

2. Evidence Preservation

 Law enforcement is tasked not just with storing evidence but also with preserving it properly for as long as they have it in their possession. Many types of evidence require special storage conditions, and items not appropriately stored may deteriorate. This situation may make an item useless in an ongoing investigation, impossible for defense attorneys to inspect, or inadmissible in court. Inventory audits may reveal such items, allowing corrective action before their destruction.

3. Chain of Custody 

One of the most critical aspects of evidence management is maintaining an unbroken chain of custody record for each item of evidence. From collection to its presentation in court, every handling or movement of a piece of evidence must be accounted for and documented. Inventory audits demonstrate that a proper chain of custody record has been continuously maintained. 

4. Compliance Documentation

The paper or E-trail generated by audits demonstrates the agency’s commitment to regulatory compliance. If an agency is state or nationally-accredited, these records will be reviewed by the accreditation teams to recertify the agency. Audit records can be used in year-end reports, and exemplary audit results can be the subject of press releases to earn the public’s trust.


Inventory audits are one way law enforcement agencies demonstrate that their evidence room operations remain compliant with the laws and regulations that govern them. While audits can vary in scope, focus, and purpose, they all can reveal discrepancies that can then be addressed. Documenting audit results and their use is an effective way to demonstrate compliance. At the same time, publicizing them helps build trust between the agency and the community it serves.  


Fortress Plus Solutions provides safe, secure, documented transportation, handling, and storage of evidence and property for the long term. If your items require special storage conditions – we provide that. In addition, we offer evidence room audits to help law enforcement maintain best practices and accurate and up-to-date inventory records. In our blog, we post informative articles about privatized long-term storage and the auditing process. To learn more about our services, click here.