Quartermaster’s are accountable for a lot of equipment, and a lot of scenarios involving their misuse, abuse, misappropriation, damage, you name it, the quartermaster will ultimately have to explain to someone at some point. It’s not necessarily fair, it’s not necessarily justified, but someone has to be stoic in the room, and when it comes to equipment, it falls on the quartermaster. One tool that a quartermaster tends to rely on is a history report of a given item. That history report defines everything for the item, from the date of purchase, receiving date, dates of issue, repairs, and everything else related to the use of the item should be in the history report. A quartermaster’s greatest gauge of success if their record keeping, and history reports create the bulk of that body of work.
What Should Be in a History Report?
Most people will agree that an equipment history report should be charting the item’s personnel assignments. This would include from the time it was introduced in agency storage, assigned to someone, transferred back to storage, re-assigned, and so forth to the logical conclusion of it’s use. And most software designed for quartermasters covers exactly this portion of equipment history, which is a good thing. However, there is a lot more that goes into the lifecycle of law enforcement equipment. Here are some examples:
- Out for Warranty Claim
- Out for Repair
- Out of Service (temporary)
- Awaiting Maintenance
- Temporarily Stored for Security
- Held for Investigation
- Awaiting Agency Release
- Deemed Surplus
- Transfer to Another Department
These may be worded differently at your agency, but these examples are self-explanatory, and provides the context that there is a lot more to a quartermaster’s job than issuing equipment out. Much of a quartermaster’s job is about accounting for equipment, inside, and outside of the agency, and that is no easy task.
How Should Information Be Captured?
We all know handwriting these transactions is something of the absolute past, and yet there are some agencies that take a hand-written ticket for a warranty claim, and incorporate that as the only record of that transaction. What happens if that item gets lost by service provider, and you must prove ownership, but that piece of paper has disappeared? What if the item is swept away in a severe weather event? Do you have all the history available to make the claim for replacement? Paper documents are official records, that we can agree upon. However, paper records deteriorate over time. They get misplaced, damaged, moved without warning, or worse, lost. Your answer to record keeping in this environment should be software. And that software should be able to capture every aspect of any transaction.
Quartermaster’s History Report as an Audit Trail
Thinking of this problem analytically, the history report of an item should be designed the same as an audit trail for digital evidence. Audit trails are an old concept that have been applied to the burgeoning field of digital evidence collection, storage, and enhancement. For digital evidence to maintain it’s value, a ‘trail’ of every time it has been accessed, enhanced, downloaded, opened, changed, and anything else, that records the person, the date and time, what they used to conduct the activity, what they did, how they did it, and the results of those activities.
Granted, the recording of equipment is a bit different, but the principles of audit trails should be thoroughly applied to any asset management software your agency uses, so that when administrators ask why a piece of equipment was sent in for warranty work four times in six weeks, making that warranty null and void moving forward, or why an item hasn’t been transferred out as surplus, or when an investigator says they want to collect potential physical evidence from a recently turned in pair of uniform pants, the quartermaster has access to a complete history report of each and every piece of your agency’s equipment, to be able to relay the whole story about that item.
Instead of solely relying on paper documents, utilizing software that can create transactions of any kind, and physical documents can be uploaded and attached within the software being used, makes the record keeping portion of asset management easy, and the reporting portion painless. This also ensures when an audit occurs, that your result will achieve total compliance with the rules and policies in place. Lastly, it means that when you do have to consider a certain item, a group of items, or entire kits more closely, you’ll have details available that paint a picture of what your equipment is going through. It will show a timeline of transactions, that speak to how equipment is issued, how long it lasts until it breaks down, the most common repairs, patterns of transactions, and who should have the best information about those items.
And there will be questions the quartermaster can’t answer at any given time, but the fact remains that using audit principles in both practice, and in software, there will be far more questions a quartermaster can answer, than not. It may not solve the problem they are being asked about, but it does cause them to have more control over their mission, their job outlook, and their rapport with their co-workers and supervisors.
Instilling an audit-minded practice in the quartermaster’s role is truly part of the job. But providing tools that make that easy, and less work overall is an attitude any agency should adopt, if not for their quartermaster, their own piece of mind, and the equipment (and ultimately money!) they are responsible for handling. Make sure that your asset management software provides you the flexibility of capturing a complete picture of your equipment lifecycle.
Be safe out there!