Professional law enforcement evidence managers realize the benefits of transparency and the fact that their operations must abide by numerous standards and laws to preserve the evidence in their care. They are knowledgeable in the standards and procedures they must follow. And they know they, along with the job they do, will be held accountable at every stage of the evidence management process. This accountability comes from within – holding themselves accountable – and outside sources, namely the many facets of the criminal justice system itself. Regular audits of property and evidence rooms demonstrate transparency and accountability in their operations. This piece discusses both benefits and why audits are vital in modern police evidence management.


Preserving evidence for use at trial is a process that’s been around for over one hundred years. It can be complicated because many types of evidence have different storage requirements. From on-scene collection, packaging, labeling, and storing, all must be accomplished while adhering to accepted modern standards and laws. Maintaining an unbroken chain of custody record is one of the most essential requirements. It applies to every single item of evidence throughout the time held by law enforcement. And for some, that can be years. Regular evidence room audits play a crucial role in preserving evidence as it demonstrates the agency is abiding by the required standards and the evidence remains unaltered throughout the time it is stored.


Conducting regular audits is a process law enforcement agencies use to hold themselves accountable for their evidence room operations. A thorough audit consists of inspecting the stored evidence, making sure it is packaged and appropriately documented, stored in the right conditions, in the location noted, and can be retrieved efficiently, among other things. An audit may uncover an issue somewhere along the line, and personnel can rectify the situation if it does. It’s important to note that procedural mistakes can happen occasionally, especially with the volume of evidence typically found in today’s evidence rooms. Audits can find and provide the vehicle to fix those mistakes in a timely manner.


While an evidence room audit may bring to mind the physical inspection of items and documentation on hand to ensure they match, a thorough audit goes beyond that. Many departments hire outside evidence management experts to conduct their audits. Using an outside organization demonstrates transparency and accountability. These organizations can take a deep dive into all functional areas and operations of a client’s evidence room, including a review of the agency’s policies and procedures. They compare them to the real-life daily operations of assigned personnel. This can uncover discrepancies in the actions taken by personnel or the practicality of the written policies. Retraining or even rewriting the policies for suitability can address situations where personnel operate outside their standing policies. Besides looking at standard operating procedures, the specific regulations and laws governing evidence management are reviewed to ensure compliance as well.


While law enforcement personnel are bound to obey the law, they have an ethical obligation to abide by the standards and regulations concerning evidence management. There are no acceptable shortcuts in the complexity of evidence preservation. Any alteration of the accepted standards can jeopardize the integrity of the evidence, causing it to be ruled inadmissible in court proceedings. Regular audits can deter the shortcut temptation and expose them if they are present. 


Transparency and accountability play a significant role in the operations of police property and evidence rooms. Law enforcement personnel hold themselves accountable and know they will be held accountable by others in the criminal justice system. Agencies audit their own evidence rooms and contract with outside experts to conduct audits of their inventories and operations. Both demonstrate transparency and accountability, but utilizing outside organizations takes that transparency and accountability to another level. Regular audits can uncover anomalies in procedures, inventories, documentation, standards compliance, and more. Professional police agencies utilize the auditing process to ensure transparency and accountability are standard operating procedures within their property and evidence rooms.


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.