Police and Law Enforcement Officers rely on a wide range of equipment to complete their every day job. Aside from relying on firearms and safety equipment, they deal with evidence, seized narcotics, and many objects that have unique storage requirements. Law Offices need to ensure the security, safety, accountability and reliability of every weapon, communication device, and items of interest that comes through the front door. As theft continues to increase, law officials are turning to tools that help them better manage dangerous assets, and to maintain proper chain of custody for evidence.
Police require control over a large number of varied items, and strict requirements on managing and tracking who has possession over them. Lockers are necessary to keep Firearms, Equipment, Pepper Spray, Evidence or hazardous items locked up and out of the wrong hands. They ensure the control and tracking of Assets and Equipment needed every day on the job, and assist with the tagging and filing of evidence. But many Law Enforcement Offices are now taking things a step further and implementing Electronic Smart Lockers, for higher security, more precise access control, better accountability, and additional tracking.
What is an Electronic Asset Locker (or Smart Locker)?
A smart locker has the security of a standard police locker, but has sensors and controllers on each compartment. It has control over each and every lock, and knows what lockers have been accessed, by who and when. Equipped with a Smart Terminal and multiple authentication options, the system validates each user before granting access to a locker compartment. Administrators are given a complete audit trail of every item taken and returned. An instant alert will be sent to administrator if an item is attempted to be accessed outside the scheduled time, if it’s not returned on time, or if either is done by an unauthorized user. RFID and weight sensors validate that the correct item has been returned to the locker, and your terminal will tell you when your electronic devices have been fully charged via the locker's built in charging bay.
When an officer arrives for duty, all they need to do is log into the Smart Terminal using fingerprint, PIN, Prox Card, IRIS, or Facial verification. The Terminal prompts users to select radios, weapons and/or keys needed for their shift. Officers will only be granted access to equipment they have been granted access to by the administrator. For example, if an officer is not taser-certified, a taser would not appear on the access list when that officer logs in. Every piece of equipment controlled by the system contains an RFID chip or charging bay, guaranteeing accurate identification.
The terminal keeps track of every transaction for easy viewing by department administrators in real time. The administrator can log into the system – through remote Web-enabled access – to see where each piece of equipment is at any given time.
1. Full Audit Trail of All Items
Law enforcement professionals are very aware of the importance of establishing and maintaining a secure chain of custody. By implementing an electronic system, officers are given more visibility and data points when trying to keep tabs on the exact whereabouts and access history to particular pieces of items or evidence.
Every individual that comes in contact with the electronic locker needs to identify themselves to the system. And for this reason, law offices have a full audit trail of who has accessed what item, when they did and for how long. Audit trails have the obvious benefit of keeping officers accountable, encouraging them to be more careful when they’re handling evidence and equipment. The vast majority of police gun thefts happen due to an officer carelessly leaving their weapon in an exposed area.
2. Advanced Officer Authentication
Rather than relying on logbooks or multiple locker keys, electronic lockers are accessed via a smart terminal that verifies the user. This can be multiple authentication methods including biometics, PIN, RFID, Iris Scan or other. Any access needs to be tied to a specific user, and many of these authentication methods are impossible to spoof. With loose regulation, individuals could spoof sign-ins and get non-verified access to evidence rooms and special equipment lockers. Advanced authentication solves this problem.
Items of high value, such as narcotics and weapons, are being dealt with on a day-to-day basis in evidence storage and need to be tracked. Stricter authentication methods make it much more difficult to fraud restricted access points, and any suspicious activity taking place would be tied directly to the individual who had access during that time.
3. Restricted Access
As many thefts occur after hours when cops are off duty, law offices can benefit from methods of restricting access during the off hours. Electronic Access Lockers can lock out users so that items are only available during certain hours in a day, and can restrict access based on a number of other factors. Is an officer’s weapon license expiring? The Electronic Locker can be programmed to know when a license expires, so that it locks the user out the second it requires a renewal. Are officers required to take a seminar before using a new piece of equipment? The Locker can restrict users until they have been authorized. If all access is restricted exclusively to when users should be using items from the lockers, it becomes much more difficult for things to go missing.
4. Tracking and Asset Monitoring
Some Law Offices go one step further and implement a full tracking system that integrates directly with the locker system. Using RFID, in-compartment sensors, and digital scales, administrators gain Asset Monitoring capabilities in each compartment and from wherever they have access to the cloud, they can view that items are where they should be (or better yet, get notified the instant an item isn’t where it should be). The system knows where the item has been, if the item is inside the compartment, and if it has been moved. With the proper infrastructure, they also have the ability to see exactly where the item is located within the building. Barcoding and RFID are increasingly being used by law enforcement agencies to track evidence in crime labs and evidence rooms. Unique identifier tags can be installed on evidence bags, allowing administrators to follow the chain of custody.
5. Improved Chain of Custody for Evidence Lockers
There has been an increased demand for the proper handling of evidence. If chain of custody is compromised in the evidence storage or handling process, it can affect the rightful prosecution of criminals, agency liabilities, and—unfortunately—can mean the difference between letting a criminal go free or putting someone innocent behind bars. An electronic evidence locker with access control and auditing options automatically records who accesses items at all times.
Evidence lockers need to accommodate a range of objects and sizes—from temporary evidence to long-term evidence storage. With features such as tracking, dual authentication, and audit trails, these “smarter” self-locking evidence lockers systems ensure the chain of custody and provide handling accountability for all evidence that is stored and accessed. Pass-through lockers allow all retrieval of evidence to be done only from the inside of the property and evidence room by previously authorized personnel. Additionally, evidence lockers may have special requirements such as refrigerated units and drying cabinets for storing temperature sensitive and biological samples.
6. Electronic Lockers are Designed to Accommodate a Wide Range of Equipment
- Police 2-way radios: Not only do officers require their 2-way radio equipment to be kept safe, they need it to be charged and ready to use. Electronic Lockers let officers charge their equipment so it’s ready whenever they are.
- Weapons, Firearms and Long guns: Officers are required to secure their firearms when not in use and need lockers that are built to accommodate all types from pistols to rifles. Long gun lockers accommodate larger weapons and can read (and track) RFID tags imbedded directly into the gun.
- Narcotics and Hazardous Materials: Certain seized materials and evidence require specific locker needs. Law enforcement agencies are increasing their efforts to separate hazardous materials evidence from benign or inert evidence. This usually involves the installation of secure, vented, fire-rated cabinets inside or outside an evidence storage facility. Narcotics need to be tagged and locked up in a locker that requires proper airflow, and additional authentication options.
- Body Cameras, Dash Cams and Other Digital Evidence: Many agencies are requiring officers to wear body cameras while on duty. Whether an agency stores the video data on-site in evidence rooms or uses a cloud-based service, formal procedures should be established to maintain evidence, as well as to dispose of files that are not needed for evidence purposes.
7. Electronic Smart Lockers Can Work in all Law Enforcement Offices
- Police Departments
- Armory/Weapons Rooms
- Evidence storage
- Patrol duty
- Military facilities
- Crime Labs
- Law Offices
As criminals get wiser and find more and more ways to exploit discrepancies in the system, there is a demand for improved security, better visibility and more automation. As we’ve seen throughout the article, officers in the station can also be involved with theft and evidence tampering within the walls of a law office. With the improved visibility and automation of an electronic locker system, law officials have been able to fight back with the ability to better track and control a large number of restricted items. And with better tools to control these items we have greater capability to ensure they remain locked up and out of the wrong hands.
About the Author
Matt formerly was the Inbound Marketing Coordinator for Real Time Networks.