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Evidence Room Inventories Made Easy – Part 2

June 9, 2021

In this webinar, Ben Townsend – the Founder and CEO of Tracker Products – was joined by Krista Morton from the Des Moines Police Department for a discussion about inventory best practices.

Ben continued the discussion by saying, “Yesterday, I asked Krista to take Tracker’s SAFE mobile app and have someone take a video of her doing an inventory of roughly eight items in the evidence room. In the video, Krista went into the mobile app on her phone and started an inventory. As she scans each barcode in the selected location, it’s sending that information directly into the app on the phone.

I should mention that taking a picture of the barcode with the mobile app is not going to be quite as quick as using a barcode scanning device. So, for those of you that are using our software, if you are scanning hundreds of items, using the scanner device with your computer, or even an iPhone, is going to be significantly faster. In this case, though, it works really well. When you’ve got eight items, or 40 items, you can get that done pretty quickly. 

A critical part of using the mobile app is that once she’s done scanning, it comes back with a list of every item that was scanned – including the location – and will show the discrepancies on her screen in real time. She doesn’t have to leave and go back to her computer or another device to get the results. When she clicks that ‘run report’ button, it is going to come back and tell her the results of that inventory.

The very bottom line, in this case, shows zero discrepancies. She scanned eight items and it found no problems. Now, she can start a new report and move right into the next location. We don’t have to go back to the computer to get these results. 

The reason I make that a big deal is because, with our old legacy product, that’s how you had to do it. So, imagine that old scenario… you’d scan all of that, you’d go back to the computer, you’d dock the cradle, all that information is uploaded, and then you’d get your report. And you had to do that for every location. 

So, this is going to be significantly faster. Getting the results on the screen is sort of the crescendo to getting valid data back. In this particular location, with eight items there were no errors.

RELATED: THE DES MOINES PD VIRTUAL EVIDENCE ROOM TOUR

Within our software, not only are you doing the inventories for each one of these locations but then all of those statistics are stored back into the software. I just took a quick screenshot of the user interface. 

These are all the inventories that Des Moines is doing. You can see just yesterday, Nick did an inventory. I’m seeing four different locations up there at the top, one had seven items in it. The column to the right of the text is showing how many items were in that location: Seven, six, six, and 15. 34 items were inventoried yesterday, and only one discrepancy was found. 

That takes me on to the next screen, where we get into what the report would look like…

If there were discrepancies this is what the report would look like. We’re seeing actual information on the screen that tells us what the problems are. That’s the purpose of an inventory; what are my problems? In this case, I have generated a report that shows every possible inventory problem. 

The first one you scanned an invalid barcode. That can happen when you get a package back from the lab and they put their barcode on it. People sometimes will accidentally scan the wrong barcode. So, the report will show you, Hey, you scanned a barcode that we don’t recognize. Now you know that’s gotta be dealt with. 

The next, and the most common one, is you’ve got items in a wrong location in your evidence room. So, you simply move those things to the right location and then they won’t show up as errors when you do the next inventory in that room. 

There was one more down at the bottom. You scanned some items that were marked checked out. Again, these are the important reasons for doing an inventory. What are my problems? 

 

A couple more down at the bottom… you scanned some disposed items. Somebody marked an item disposed of, and somehow it’s still sitting on the shelf. And then, probably the more common one: These items were not scanned and they should have been in that storage location. 

There’s nothing wrong with errors. I mean, this is supposed to tell you what the problems are, so you can go about getting these things resolved. This gets you a lot closer to things being where they need to be, so that when it comes time to doing a random inventory, everything is where it’s supposed to be.”

RELATED:  INVENTORY – A CRUCIAL PART OF EVIDENCE MANAGEMENT

Ben changed gears and said, “Krista, you said your goal is that within every three years you have scanned every piece of evidence at least once, right? I mean, you would agree with that at the end of a three-year period of time, you should have done everything. I wanted to check up on you. So, I randomly picked an officer – this Curtiss guy – he entered evidence beginning more than three years ago.

I did a search for every piece of evidence he’s ever entered – that’s older than 1,050 days, which is three years – and it’s still checked in. It came back with a list of 47 items. You still have 47 items in the evidence room from that guy, that are older than three years that are still checked in. 

They should have been involved in an inventory, right? That’s one of the things our software does… provide a history of each item. I took the fourth item on the list: a cell phone. I went in, brought up that item, and looked at the scan history tab. On May 29th of 2019, this item was involved in the discrepancy report that Rena Thomas did.

It showed up as no errors, which means that item was where it was supposed to be. That is an audit. I’m auditing the process. So Krista, I’m happy to let you know, I checked five different items and all five of them showed up in an inventory. So that’s good. That is me affirming that your process, at least with a check of five items. 

If I check a hundred, who knows but at least checking five items, let me know that all five of those items did show up in an inventory within the last three years.

RELATED: AUDITS – CRUCIAL FOR PRESERVING THE INTEGRITY OF EVIDENCE

Another thing that our software will allow you to do… in the toolbar, there is a random audit function now. I’m going to call this report a Drug Random Audit. I’m going to select the category of drugs, and I’m going to say something like, give me a list of 10% of all evidence listed in the drug category.

I probably wouldn’t do 332 items. I would probably do something that has 20 or 30 on it. And in this case, I did generate something that had 10 items on it. So, this is where you would go into the room and you would check every item. 

We worked with Shawn at the Evidence Management Institute to come up with some audit mechanisms. If you decided to run this report, you could pick 10 items and then answer each one of these questions for each item…

Those are just four categories of things we picked. So, this would be a good way to do a random audit.

It would be a random inventory if all you were doing is checking whether the item was found in the proper location. But, because we added some of those other variables, we felt pretty comfortable calling it an audit. 

That is the last thing I wanted to show off. Krista, did you have anything else you wanted to say about your process? I mean, anything else you want to offer to people? Things you’ve learned over the years that would be helpful.”

Krista said, “Um, if we can’t find something there’s a form that we’re going to start using to document things like… Nick, my assistant, and I all looked for the evidence, so we have some kind of record of everything we did to look for missing property. We’re going to start using this form to keep track of it, instead of just making a note. So, we can say… We looked in our case file. We got a hold of the detective… just some more documentation on things that come up missing.”

Ben said, “I see a few questions have come in. I’ll read them out to Kristen. 

The first question that came in is from Dave Schweitzer in Orange, California. He asked, Do you only use property room employees for an inventory, or do you ever bring any outside people in to help?”

Krista said, “No, it’s just us. Because somebody in our office would have to be with an outside person, for the integrity of our property room. So, it’s just as easy if we just go do it.”

Ben said, “I do know people who have brought in a third party. I’ve even seen people bring in volunteers. I have no idea what they had to go through to get them authorized, but, I’m certain that is going on out there. Krista, you don’t seem to be sold on that idea.”

Krista laughed and said, “People are not happy with us when we say, Um, you need to leave the room. We’re leaving, so you’re leaving too.”

Ben said, “Dave from Orange just responded. He said their policy is that it has to be outside employees like detectives and cadets. I will say I’ve seen a lot of people use cadets in the evidence room: train them and bring them in. But, he also says they have to watch them all the time. So, my guess is, they’re not just letting them go into the evidence room and do whatever they want.

I could imagine a scenario where if you bring in a cadet, you’re getting two inventories done for the price of one. So, Krista could be there with that cadet. They’re doing one shelf, she’s doing the shelf to the left of them. And you’re knocking out two at a time versus just you doing one and you’re watching them.” 

Krista said, “I can see why they’re doing it. They’re trying to maintain the integrity of the room, by not giving too much control to the people running the evidence room. So, somebody from the outside would be checking my work; making sure everything is kosher.”

RELATED: WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR EVIDENCE MANAGEMENT IN YOUR AGENCY? 

Ben shared another question from the audience, saying, “David Bragg at Bowling Green PD asked… How long are these inventories in SAFE? 

In our old legacy product, we allowed you to delete a report. In the new SAFE system – which probably most of you are already using – we do not allow users to delete reports. They’re in there forever. The reason we do that is so that when you bring up an individual piece of evidence and you look at that scan history, we want you to be able to go back for years. 

There is an option to hide the report or mark it done. That way, it’s not showing in your active list, but those reports are there forever. And, we always want them to be there.

The other reason we did it this way is because if something comes up wrong, we want that to be there for forever. Some people may say, Whoa, wait a minute. I don’t like that idea. If there’s a mistake, I want to be able to correct it. We allow you to note that on the report. 

I mean, Krista, you guys have come up with problems and you simply go in and put a note in there. Nobody is ever going to ding you for: I couldn’t find a piece of evidence. It took us a week. We found it. Here’s what’s going on. But, what they will nail you for is when you’ve lost a piece of evidence, and all of a sudden you’re going out of your way to make sure that is not known. 

I think it is critical to have those records in there permanently. It’s been more for the sake of getting somebody into a position of helping them than, than somebody went rogue. It’s always: We’ve cleared somebody because we have a valid track record of what’s going on. And that’s what we want.”

Ben took another question from an attendee, saying, “Craig Greenberg, thanks for your post. He said that they do a 51% inventory every six months. Then asked: Will the random audit scanning page do all the items in one year? 

You could do every piece of evidence, but because it is an audit – and you’re doing way more than what you’re doing in an inventory – I would not imagine you would do what we call a random audit to do the entire evidence room. I think you could do what we call a discrepancy report, where you just scan every barcode. It comes back with a report and then your audit is a sub-component of that. You’ll do that less frequently.”

Ben took another comment/question, saying, “David Bragg in Bowling Green has over 49,000 pieces of evidence in their evidence room. They’ve got a new Chief coming in and they’re doing a hundred percent inventory on everything. 

Okay… I believe we have sufficiently covered inventories here today. As always my hope is that we’ve shown something, or said something, that is of value and you can take it back and apply it to your scenario. 

If you’re a client of ours and there’s anything I can help you out with, certainly let me know. Even if it’s getting some of those statistics that I got here for Krista today. I’m happy to hop into the system and get some of that. 

We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with another webinar. So, keep an eye on the community forum. We’ll post some of the forms we talked about here today, too. Krista, if you wouldn’t mind sending me a scanned copy of the lost property form that you use, I’d love to post that. Thank you and have a great day.” 

Tracker Products and The Evidence Management Institute want to give you something productive to think about during this time of uncertainty… a series of free evidence management training and panel discussions. Watch and comment on the webinars here. Or – to get in on the discussion, with nearly 600 other evidence custodians – join the Evidence Management Community Forum on Facebook.

Tracker Product’s SAFE evidence tracking software is more than just barcodes and inventory control, it’s end-to-end chain of custody software for physical and digital evidence, resolving each of the critical issues facing evidence management today. To learn more about Tracker Products, CLICK HERE.

Or, if you’re interested in Evidence Management Training from our partner company, VISIT EMI HERE