Most modern evidence rooms probably already have in place a system by which items are inventoried, or audited, on a regular basis. If yours doesn’t, it most definitely should.
Regularly scheduled inventories, as well as random audits, play an important part in maintaining the integrity of your entire “process”. How and when those inventories are conducted are up to you and your agency policies, but it is very important that you do them, for several reasons.
The most obvious reason for conducting inventories is to determine whether or not all items are present and accounted for. Only though inventory, actually laying your hands on an item, can you be sure that it is still where it is supposed to be. Not only are you verifying that the items you’re looking for are in their assigned locations, but you may find other items in the location that aren’t supposed to be there.
Develop a system where you conduct routine inventories weekly or monthly, and a second system of random audits to be conducted by a supervisor. You may also wish to establish a practice where you do a full inventory of all items in the evidence room on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis. The random audits and full audit will give you, and your agency head, peace of mind.
Certain items should probably be inventoried more regularly, and possibly in the presence of a second person or a supervisor. Those items are what I like to call “the big 3”… guns, money and drugs. Watch those items like a hawk, they’ll get you in trouble faster than anything else.
Modern evidence management software usually provides helpful tools when it comes to conducting inventories, and using a barcode scanner obviously speeds up the process exponentially. Keep storage locations to a manageable size, so you won’t be tempted to skip them because it’s too time consuming. You can have a system where you inventory a different storage location each week, or you can ask your supervisor to pull random cases and make you produce the evidence. Any evidence management software that does not include inventory tools is probably not worthy your investment.
Whatever you do, make sure your process is documented and all of your inventory results are maintained, preferably within your evidence management software. A good system will show each and every time an item was inventoried, right in that items history. This might prove helpful if the item should come up missing someday. You can look back at the history and see that it was inventoried 3 times in the past 2 years and was last observed on such and such a date by Evidence Tech Smith.
Ultimately, your evidence room is a direct reflection on you and your colleagues, but the professional embarrassment that comes from losing key evidence or, worse yet, having evidence stolen, is a reflection on your entire agency. No one wants that kind of attention. Keep it neat, clean and organized at all times so conducting inventories is easy and even pleasant.