Evidence Management Community of Practice Newsletter


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Vol 1, Issue 6

In This Issue:

The Evidence and Management Survey Closing Date Has Been Extended!

Please click here to start the survey

The Evidence Management Steering Committee (EMSC) would like to thank the Community of Practice members for the survey's overwhelming response thus far. We have obtained over 1,000 responses representing evidence handlers nationally and internationally. To allow more underrepresented evidence handling stakeholders the opportunity to participate, we have extended the closing date of the survey to April 16th. Please continue to encourage individuals you know who handle evidence inside and outside of your agency to share their inputs. Anyone who handles or manages property or evidence is eligible to participate. The EMSC appreciates your time in completing this survey and greatly values your input.

Ask the Steering Committee: Property & Evidence Management and Organization - Key Considerations



EMSC members often receive questions from a variety of organizations about management challenges related to lack of space, inefficent tracking processes, and lack of resources. In this issue of the newsletter, we highlight three overarching topics to consider when developing a plan to address these issues in property and evidence rooms within and outside of law enforcement agencies.



Physical evidence retention periods can range from one year to indefinitely, depending upon the type of crime and regulatory statutes. Regardless of the retention requirements for impounded items, any person that handles property or evidence is responsible for accurate tracking and appropriate management. This responsibility applies to both law enforcement and non-law enforcement. The primary purpose of property and evidence tracking and management is to maintain the integrity of the collected items, whether the collection is performed by law enforcement professionals or authorities in other organizations (e.g. forensic laboratories, hospitals, court facilities, or coronor’s offices).



Successful prosecutions depend on an accurate chain of custody and proper evidence management practices to ensure an item's integrity across all handlers. While staffing, training, and funding are three well known issues that impact an agency or organization's successful handling of property and evidence, other influences include:

  • Physical space for storing property and evidence, especially the lack of space and overcrowding.
  • Location of property and evidence storage, including environmental considerations.
  • Property and evidence packaging and securing packages and containers.
  • Tracking, management, and access controls for different property and evidence types.
  • Auditing schedules and processes.
  • Policies and standard operating procedures specific to property and evidence tracking and management throughout an item's life cycle.
  • Transfer procedures, including collection from non-law enforcement agencies (e.g., healthcare providers).

Inadequate tracking, unclear workflows, and inappropriate storage conditions can result in evidence becoming vulnerable to theft, deterioration, damage, and infestation. These same factors increase the risk for human error, which can further compromise the evidence integrity and potentially result in compromised criminal cases, incomplete investigations, and civil liability.

The Solution

The Solution

To address actual and potential problems related to property and evidence management, experts on the EMSC have employed holistic, multi-pronged approaches that include: 1) space management, 2) workflow processes and procedures, and 3) staffing factors. All three elements require equal attention to address existing issues and prevent both short- and long-term problems. Focusing on one or two of the most immediate concerns only relieves the risk of compromising evidence integrity temporarily. For example, revising workflow processes will not successfully address a crowded or disorganized storage space if factors related to space management and staff training are not also addressed. Employing a holistic approach to problem solving can aid in preventing future problems.

Space Management

When designing a space to store property and evidence, many elements are more complex than they seem. Storage capacity is a perfect example. When asked about the amount of physical space available for storage, an agency’s response may be to simply provide the square footage of floor space. The more accurate measurement, however, includes horizontal and vertical cubic feet. Facilities with high ceilings can significantly increase their storage capacity by fully utilizing vertical cubic space. In addition, shelving and containers should be chosen to optimize use of all areas within a room. EMSC experts recommend matching shelving dimensions to storage containers sizes to reduce wasted space. Drawer systems should also be considered to allow for more efficient retrieval of hidden or stacked evidence packages.

As mentioned earlier, evidence management solutions should not be developed in isolation. Use a holistic approach that considers the impact of operational processes and staff workflow when designing a new storage area or redesigning current storage areas. Are there designated areas for staging, report writing, and external viewing of evidence items? Are workstations adjacent to needed tools such as computers, documents, scanners, and other relevant supplies to reduce the number of steps required to complete a task? Are incoming and outgoing evidence items separated to avoid accidental loss or destruction?

Workflow Processes and Procedures

Workflow encompasses how efficiently property and evidence moves through collection, receipt, storage, release, and disposal processes. Workflow tools include physical instruments and equipment such as forklifts, pallet jacks, or electronic devices such as computers, printers, or software applications that facilitate the workflow of a property and evidence facility. Workflow analyses require evaluating the necessary tools, policies, and departmental philosophy regarding the importance of appropriate handling, tracking, and evidence management. A workflow analysis might ask, for example, whether existing tools promote or hinder any aspect of the evidence management process. Leadership support of workflow process improvement is critical to successful implementation of revised practices.

When considering policies and procedures, evaluate if they reflect the roles and responsibilities of all evidence handlers. Is guidance provided to evidence handlers outside of your agency (i.e. forensic examiners, clinicians, or other governmental agencies)? One recommendation highlighted by EMSC experts is to have an established process to notify collectors from both within and outside the agency about handling requirements or changes to operational procedures.

Lastly, does your agency culture support cross-sector collaboration to prevent potential tracking and management issues? An organizational culture that is proactive in addressing multidisciplinary concerns is an important part of facilitating long-lasting and positive change.  


The number of employees dedicated to property and evidence management depends on an agency's type, jurisdiction, size, and number of items held in storage. Again, staffing is heavily impacted by the factors previously mentioned. Storage space and workflow issues can, directly and indirectly, affect staffing requirements and contribute to staffing problems. When staffing issues arise, agency leadership should evaluate the amount of labor needed to conduct evidence room functions. EMSC experts recommend utilizing a robust evidence management system that enables statistical tracking of inventory fluctuations which is critical in the development of a budget and staffing plan.

Personnel training is another vital aspect to consider. How is evidence training provided to department personnel? Staff should have easy access to standard operating procedures and manuals for reference as well as refresher training when needed. EMSC experts also recommend allowing regular opportunities for evidence personnel to speak with management regarding inefficient practices that lead to problems.

Regardless of an agency's specific staffing challenge, the goal is to promote property and evidence tracking and management practices that ensure an item's integrity. This goal remains whether the agency has dedicated evidence custodians or divides responsibilities across multiple staff positions. NIST is currently surveying evidence handlers to better understand the staffing landscape related to evidence handlers' roles and positions across the industry.                              

Best Practices

Best Practices

The EMSC is developing a report on evidence management best practices, including properly handling, storing, and transferring property and evidence. This report will aid agencies in creating practical standard operating procedures (SOPs) for their forensic units.

In the interim, the documents listed below provide helpful best practices and guidelines related to property and evidence room organization and design:

Forensic Science Laboratories: Handbook for Facility Planning, Design, Construction, and Relocation

This handbook, created by NIST and NIJ in collaboration with members of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, outlines guidelines for planning, designing, constructing, and moving into crime laboratories.


The Biological Evidence Preservation Handbook: Best Practices for Evidence Handlers

This handbook created by the NIST/NIJ Technical Working Group on Biological Evidence Preservation provides guidance for individuals involved in the collecting, examining, tracking, packaging, storing, and dispositioning biological evidence.


Was this useful?

Please feel free to provide feedback on this article and any additional questions you have regarding property & evidence room organization and design. If you have ideas on future articles or would like EMSC to provide more information on a specific topic,

please email us at: AskEMSC@nist.gov.

Click here to join the Evidence Management Community of Practice to receive future newsletters



References and Additional Education Links

References and Additional Education Links

  1. Forensic Science Laboratories: Handbook for Facility Planning, Design, Construction, and Relocation. Retrieved from: Forensic Science Laboratories: Handbook for Facility Planning, Design, Construction, and Relocation. (nist.gov)
  2. Forensic evidence management: From the crime scene to the courtroom. Mozayani, A. & Parish Fisher, C. (Eds.). (2018). CRC Press.
  3. Evidence Resources. Retrieved from: https://home.iape.org/evidence-resources.html
  4. The Biological Evidence Preservation Handbook: Best Practices for Evidence Handlers. Retrieved from: https://www.nist.gov/system/files/documents/forensics/NIST-IR-7928.pdf
  5. Evidence Handling, Processing, and Tracking. Retrieved from: https://www.justice.gov/archives/ncfs/page/file/451306/download
  6. RFID Technology in Forensic Evidence Management: An Assessment of Barriers, Benefits, and Costs. Retrieved from: https://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/ir/2014/NIST.IR.8030.pdf
  7. Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory. Forensic Services Guide. Retrieved from: http://www.lsp.org/pdf/Forensic_Lab_Services_Guide.pdf

Events & Training

Due to COVID-19, the dates of in-person training sessions are changing daily. For the most up-to-date list of trainings please refer to the organization's websites.

The Staffing Conundrum: To Staff OR Not To Staff? – Thursday, April 8th at 12:30 pm EDT

In this webinar, presented by The International Association for Property and Evidence, staffing concerns and potential solutions surrounding property and evidence rooms will be discussed.

Click here to register.

Evidence Management for Law Enforcement

Evidence Management for Law Enforcement offers classes designed to provide training, resources, and tools for property and evidence personnel ranging from basic evidence management, evidence room audits, and property and evidence room organization.  

The most up-to-date list of upcoming property and evidence trainings can be found here. 

International Association for Property & Evidence (IAPE) Training

This is a two-day, in-person training that focuses on evidence and property room management best practices. 

The most up-to-date list of upcoming property and evidence trainings can be found here.

Unable to travel? IAPE offers two convenient online training options. Choose between a full, two-day course or individual classes.

Click here to learn more about IAPE's online courses. 

Public Agency Training Council (PATC) - Managing the Property and Evidence Room 

This is a two-day training that provides participants with the techniques and responsibilities involved in the function of a property room.   

The most up-to-date list of upcoming property and evidence trainings can be found here. 

Note: The NIJ, NIST, and EMSC do not sponsor or endorse the training content for any events provided in this list. The events and training sessions provided are for informational purposes only.

Evidence Management in the News

  • Tennessee Police Exposed to Fentanyl During Arrest
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  • Sheriff makes push to return items to owners
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  • Tracking the evidence: Gail's Law would add tracking information for rape kits for survivors
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  • Washoe County Sheriff Announces Elimination of DNA Evidence Kit Backlog
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  • Missed any of our previous issues? You can find them here.

  • Missed the 2019 Evidence Management Conference? View all the presentations by clicking here
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