EMI Standards and Best Practices

Chapter 3 – Facility, Security and Safety

Purpose: Sustainable evidence management operations require facilities capable of safely storing and preserving evidence for the duration of custody. A secure chain of custody is predicated on security considerations that limit access to evidence to a controlled and known quantity. Evidence storage and management can present multiple safety issues that require planning and consideration to sustain a safe environment for evidence room personnel. Implementation and adoption of the Facility, Security and Safety standards and practices recommended by the Evidence Management Institute promotes a stable organizational baseline for sustainable evidence management.

 

Scope: Facility Standards and Best Practices

Security Standards and Best Practices

Safety Standards and Best Practices

 

Definitions: Access or Entry Log. A document, or electronic report that provides detailed information about persons who enter secure evidence storage or submission areas; recording names, identification numbers, dates and times of entry and exit, and the identification of any personnel escorting the person to provide access.  

Evidence Storage Area. Generic term for the secure portion(s) of the facility where physical or digital evidence is stored.

Evidence Records Area. Generic term for the secure portion(s) of the facility where evidence records are stored.

Evidence Processing Area. Generic term for the secure portion(s) of the facility where evidence is processed from intake lockers or prepared for movement from the evidence management facility.

Personal Protective Gear (PPG). Generic term for personal safety equipment issued or used by evidence operation personnel; common forms of PPG include nitrile or latex gloves, respirator masks, eye-protection, or protective garments.

Chapter III. Facility, Security and Safety

  1. Facility Standards
    1. Facility Conditions
      1. Facilities housing evidence management operations at an agency should be capable of providing appropriate storage environment conditions for the types of evidence stored by the agency.
      2. Facilities housing evidence management operations should be appropriately maintained and routinely cleaned to provide safe working conditions and an orderly environment for evidence management.
  1. Facility Best Practices
    1. Facility Lighting
      1. Evidence management facilities should be lighted sufficiently to provide visibility and working conditions that support the detailed work processes involved in evidence management and the property identification of evidence items.
      2. Agencies should avoid using lighting sources that generate excessive heat or excessive ultraviolet radiation to prevent unintentional exposure damage to evidence items or to evidence packages and labels.
      3. Agencies should consider installing emergency lighting equipment, or equipping evidence management personnel with flashlights in case of power outage.
    1. Facility Environmental Controls
      1. Facility temperature and humidity levels should be regulated to ensure the appropriate storage and preservation of evidence.
    2. Facility Power
      1. Agencies should consider installing back up power generation equipment to ensure continuous operation of evidence management environmental control systems, security systems and cold storage equipment.
    3. Supply Storage
      1. The practice of storing evidence management unit or agency supplies in secure evidence storage areas should be avoided.
    4. Common Evidence Management Facility Areas
      1. Evidence management unit facilities commonly feature the following specific use areas:
        1. Evidence Submission Processing and Packaging Area
        2. Evidence Submission Temporary Lockers or Bulk Storage
        3. Evidence Cold Storage Submission Area
        4. Evidence Intake Processing Area
        5. Evidence Correction or Secure Release Area
        6. Evidence Records Area
        7. Evidence Unit Personnel Office Area
        8. Internal Customer Service Release Area
        9. Public Release Area
        10. Secure Evidence Storage Area
        11. High Security Evidence Storage Areas
        12. Disposition Preparation and Storage Area
      2. Facility design and construction may limit or require consolidation of facility areas, but evidence management facilities should be capable of providing functionality for each applicable facility area.
  1. Security Standards
    1. Access
      1. Unescorted access to secure evidence storage, evidence records or evidence processing areas should be limited to evidence management unit personnel.
    2. Access or Entry Logs
      1. Unescorted access into secure evidence storage, evidence records or evidence processing areas should be documented on an access or entry log book, form, or similar electronic media report.
      2. The evidence management unit should retain entry or access records permanently.
      3. At a minimum, the access or entry log should document:
        1. Escorted person’s name and identification number
        2. Purpose of entry
        3. Date of entry and date of exit
        4. Time of entry and time of exit
        5. Name and Identification of escort
    3. Physical Security, Walls, Windows and Ceilings
      1. Walls and windows should be constructed or modified to prevent unauthorized or undetected access into secure evidence storage, evidence processing or evidence records areas.
    4. Physical Security, Doors and Door Frames
      1. Doors and door frames should be constructed or modified to prevent unauthorized or undetected access or removal for entry into secure evidence storage, evidence processing or evidence records areas.
      2. Door hinges should not be located on the exterior or public side of the doorway.
    1. Locks, Locking Systems and Keyless Access Systems
      1. Locks, locking systems and keyless access systems utilized for secure evidence storage, evidence processing or evidence records entry points should meet the following criteria:
        1. High-security keyed locks and locking systems, which prevent unauthorized duplication of keys, should be utilized to prevent unauthorized entry.
        2. If combination locks or locking systems are utilized, the practice of using a static, common or shared combination should be prohibited.
        3. Keyless access systems should be capable of limiting access by user, and retain entry records for a minimum of ten years.
    2. Key Control and Access Control
      1. The evidence management unit should retain accurate and continuously updated physical key and keyless access control records which detail:
        1. The identification number assigned to specific physical keys and keyless access cards that provide access to evidence management facility areas
        2. An inventory of all existing physical keys and keyless access cards that provide access to the evidence management unit facility
        3. A list of current key and card holders assigned possession of existing physical keys or keyless access cards, including date of issuance and date of return
        4. A list of former key and card holders and assigned physical keys or keyless access cards, including date of issuance and date of return
      2. Evidence management unit personnel who are assigned physical keys or keyless access cards should acknowledge receipt and possession of assigned keys by form, including signature.
      3. If biometric keyless access systems are used in lieu of key or keyless card access, the evidence management unit should retain accurate and continuously updated control records which detail:
        1. All personnel with biometric access to evidence facility areas
        2. A list of authorized access areas related to the biometric profile
    3. Lock Changes and Access Card De-Activations
      1. Locks or keyways to evidence management evidence management facility doors or locks should be changed or re-keyed after personnel changes in the unit.
      2. The implementation of electronic key control storage and authorization system may be an appropriate alternative to physical lock or keyway changes.
      3. Access cards for personnel transferring from, or otherwise leaving the evidence management unit, should be immediately de-activated upon separation of assignment.
    4. High Security Areas
      1. The following storage or processing areas require increased security measures to ensure the integrity of evidence and to prevent unauthorized or unescorted access:
        1. Narcotics Storage
        2. Currency Storage
        3. High-Value Items Storage
        4. Firearms Storage
        5. Biological Evidence Storage
        6. Disposal Processing Areas
    5. Temporary Storage Area Security
      1. Temporary storage areas, including evidence submission storage areas, should provide sufficient security to ensure chain of custody prior to processing and acceptance by the evidence management unit. General security measures for temporary storage areas should provide:
        1. Individual case evidence submission storage, that
        2. Limits access to the submitting officer and evidence management personnel.
  1. Security Best Practices
    1. Security Principles
      1. Evidence management security practices should prevent unauthorized access or attempted entry to secure areas as a first priority.
      2. Prevention of unauthorized access or entry cannot always be achieved given existing facility limitations. The second priority in evidence management security is detection of unauthorized access or attempted entry.
      3. Incorporation of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles into evidence management unit security features and practices will enhance the overall security level of evidence management operations.
    2. Common Physical Security Vulnerabilities
      1. Doors and Windows
        1. Utilizing lightly constructed or hollow core doors and wood door frames may create an easy access point for unauthorized access or intrusion. Consider steel doors and door frames in lieu of hollow-core wood doors and wood door frames.
        2. Windows and window frames inside evidence storage areas, evidence processing areas or evidence records areas may create an easy access point for unauthorized access or intrusion. Consider replacement of standard windows and frames with security grade window glass and window frames, or reinforcing existing windows and frames to prevent access or intrusion.
      2. Wall Construction
        1. For walls adjacent to evidence storage areas, evidence processing areas or evidence record areas, cinder block, concrete or walls constructed of solid materials from grade to roof are preferred over traditional drywall framing construction.
        2. Solid wall construction that does not extend from grade to roof may create an easy access point for unauthorized access or intrusion.
        3. Consider reinforcement of traditionally framed walls, and extension of solid wall construction from grade to roof.
      3. Drop Ceilings and Roof Construction
        1. Drop ceilings, unless combined with solid grade to roof wall construction on all sides, may create an easy access point for unauthorized access or intrusion. Consider reinforcement of adjacent walls as described in this section.
        2. Facility roof construction may create an easy access point for unauthorized access or intrusion. Consider reinforcement as appropriate.
      4. Combination Locks and Retail Grade Padlocks
        1. Most combination locks and padlocks commonly available for retail sale carry inherent security vulnerabilities. The security features of these products can often be defeated with little or no effort or training. Additional keys can often be obtained from the code printed on the locking system. Consider use of high-security locks that provide key control and accountability measures equivalent to the standards and practices for facility locking systems.
      5. Common Access Keys
        1. The practice of keying all facility keys to a common key or keyway pattern should not be utilized in evidence storage, evidence record, or evidence processing areas. Keys and keyways for evidence management unit locks and locking systems should ideally not conform to other general facility keys and keyways.
      6. Bulk Storage and External Storage Areas
        1. Bulk storage areas and external storage areas, especially those outside the footprint of the evidence management system facility, should be equipped with security measures that ensure the integrity of stored evidence and limit access to authorized personnel.
        2. Additional or enhanced security measures may be required to ensure the secure chain of custody for items stored in these areas.
        3. Access to bulk or external storage areas should be subject to documentation or require evidence management unit escorted access into these areas.
      7. Offsite Storage
        1. Offsite storage of evidence, unless exigent circumstances exist, is discouraged as a general practice.
        2. If offsite storage is required due to facility or case limitations, security measures for offsite storage should be equivalent to security measures in place for the main evidence management unit facility.
        3. Additional or enhanced security measures may be required to ensure the secure chain of custody for items stored in these areas.
        4. Access to offsite storage areas should be subject to documentation or require evidence management unit escorted access into these areas.
    3. Common Environmental or Procedural Security Vulnerabilities
      1. Following Established Procedures
        1. Human factors are the primary weak point for most security plans. A security culture within the evidence management unit that fails to adhere to established security procedures negates the potential effectiveness of all physical security measures.
      2. Review of Security Records
        1. Access logs, key control and keyless access card lists, notifications from access alarms or systems and surveillance video footage should be routinely reviewed for potential security violations. Unaudited security measures negate the effectiveness of each respective security measure.
      3. Mutual Trust Reliance
        1. Security systems that are based on trusting personnel to “do the right thing,” or failing to implement security protocols for similar reasons, actually do a disservice to unit personnel and the overall integrity of evidence management operations. Effective security measures protect the evidence, the agency and evidence management personnel equally from discredit, harm or loss.
    4. High Security Area Practices
      1. In order to achieve higher security levels to protect vulnerable evidence types, it is advisable to employ a combination of physical and procedural high-security features in the security plan for the area. High-security feature options  include:
        1. Redundant area entry requirements, such as requiring two-person individualized key or code access
        2. Supervisory access requirement, prohibiting access or entry without supervisory escort or authority
        3. High-security door and lock systems
        4. Cinder block or steel full height walls and enclosed ceiling systems
        5. Additional locked storage or storage safe access inside the high-security area
        6. Prohibition of single person or unescorted access
        7. Keyless access notification with immediate access notification to unit supervisor
        8. Security alarms with immediate access notification to unit supervisors
        9. Video surveillance at access points and room interior
    5. Key and Access Control
      1. Key control and keyless access control records should be routinely audited to ensure that no unauthorized personnel have been granted access without proper authorization and clearance.
      2. Most keyless access control systems can record and limit facility access by person, time, day of week. Consider limiting keyless access for all personnel to prevent unauthorized access.
      3. It is best practice that a supervisor or manager of an evidence management unit has administrative rights to keyless card reader software systems to limit and audit access to authorized users.
    6. Alarms, Intrusion
      1. Security alarms, especially in facilities occupied less than 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, are recommended for all evidence management units.
      2. Ideally security alarms should alert the system and evidence management unit administrator:
        1. Upon entry or attempt to enter any door, window or access point into secure evidence storage, evidence processing, evidence record and high-security areas
        2. Upon detection of motion in secure evidence storage, evidence processing, evidence record and high-security areas
        3. Upon detection of glass breakage if the facility is equipped with window glass
    7. Alarms, Environmental
      1. Environmental alarms, especially in facilities occupied less than 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, are recommended for all evidence management units.
      2. Ideally environmental alarms should alert the system and evidence management unit administrator:
        1. Of smoke or fire conditions within evidence management unit facility areas
        2. Of extreme temperature or humidity fluctuations in secure evidence storage, evidence processing, evidence record and high-security areas
        3. Of toxic gas conditions, including carbon monoxide or natural gas within evidence management facility areas
        4. Of cold storage system temperature fluctuations out of expected operational tolerances
    8. Video Surveillance
      1. Video surveillance systems, especially in facilities occupied less than 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, are recommended for all evidence management units.
      2. Video surveillance areas should ideally include:
        1. Evidence storage areas
        2. High-security storage areas
        3. Disposal preparation and storage areas
        4. Officer submission and packaging areas
        5. Intake processing areas
        6. External or offsite storage areas
        7. Temporary storage areas
        8. Hallways and doorways for access points to each recommended surveillance area
      3. Video surveillance system file retention
        1. Ideally video surveillance footage should be retained for a minimum of two years, however available bandwidth and digital storage systems may not provide for extended retention. Retention should be set at the maximum time period that bandwidth and storage capacity can allow.
        2. Agencies should consider motion activated cameras to conserve file storage space and extend retention periods. Motion activated cameras may require full lighting conditions to operate effectively.
      4. Video surveillance file quality and camera angle.
        1. Video surveillance cameras should record at a resolution that captures sufficient detail to identify persons and actions from the file footage.
        2. When designing the video surveillance system, special consideration should be paid to optimize camera angle and field of view and avoid potential obstructions.
      5. Video surveillance system security.
        1. Cameras should be mounted and encased in a tamper resistant mount.
        2. Cameras and recording systems should be equipped with battery backup in case of power failure.
        3. The use of on-site physical recording devices is generally less preferable than an I.P. (Internet Protocol) Camera system with cloud server storage and remote viewing capabilities.
    9. After Hours Access
      1. In the event that after-hours access into the property room is required for non-evidence management personnel to enter secured areas of the evidence management unit, procedures should be developed to ensure the security and integrity of evidence.
      2. It is a best practice to require callback of evidence management unit personnel to provide escorted access into secure areas within the evidence management unit.
      3. If callback of evidence management unit personnel is not an option, and keyless access systems are utilized at the facility, remote access can be granted by the evidence management unit keyless access system administrator.
      4. The practice of providing an emergency key stored outside the unit should be avoided. However, keys protected by a mechanical or electronic key access control system may provide a suitable alternative to the unsecured storage of evidence unit keys.
      5. If an agency elects to permit non-evidence management unit personnel to access the facility after-hours, a full video surveillance system and significant access limitations are recommended.
    10. Security for Unsubmitted Wet, Blood or Biological Evidence
      1. Certain types of evidence may require drying or further processing prior to packaging and submission to the evidence management unit. To accommodate the appropriate preservation of evidence and provide a secure chain of custody for the item, specific procedures for handling these circumstances should be developed based on the agency’s facility design and equipment required for processing prior to submission. Considerations should include:
        1. Best practices and conditions for handling biological or forensic evidence
        2. Prevention of potential cross contamination with other case evidence
        3. Ensuring secure chain of custody of the item
  1. Safety Standards
    1. Safety Priority
      1. The evidence management unit should provide safe working environment conditions for evidence management unit personnel that mitigate known hazards or risks that commonly associated with evidence handling.
    2. Safety Training
      1. Evidence Management Unit personnel should receive safety training that provides instruction in the following areas:
        1. Identification of known hazards and risks
        2. Use and purpose of assigned personal protective gear
        3. Facility safety procedures
        4. Equipment safety
        5. Firearms safety
        6. Hazardous materials safety
        7. Narcotics handling safety
        8. Biological evidence safety
        9. Opioid or Synthetic Opioid Exposure Procedures
        10. Eye Wash Procedures
        11. Biological Exposure Procedures
    3. Personal Protective Gear
      1. Evidence management personnel should be required to utilize appropriate personal protective gear when handling evidence.
    4. Ventilation
      1. Evidence storage and processing areas should provide adequate ventilation for the continued safe storage and preservation of evidence.
    5. Smoke and Fire Detection and Suppression
      1. Evidence management facilities should provide adequate smoke and fire detection and suppression measures for the continued safe storage and preservation of evidence.
  1. Safety Best Practices
    1. Emergency Communication
      1. Due to the limited access requirements for evidence security, and potential exposure to safety risks related to equipment and stored evidence, the use of distress alarms or other emergency communication technology is recommended for personnel working in evidence management facilities.
    2. Opioid or Synthetic Opioid Exposure Recommendations
      1. Fentanyl and other opioid and synthetic opioid chemicals can create an exposure risk that is virtually impossible to accurately predict or prevent prior to exposure. Due to the risk involved, providing documented training and equipping evidence management personnel with one or more dosage units of Naloxone Hydrochloride, commonly referred to as Narcan, is a recommended safety practice.
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