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Securing the chain of custody at a sheriff’s department

The Lake County Sheriff’s Department improved its evidence storage to gain accreditation and ensure a secure chain of custody.

THE CHALLENGE: MOVING TOWARD ACCREDITATION Located in suburban Chicago, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department takes in about 5500 pieces of evidence and property every year. The department had been storing evidence in a pole barn, where security concerns were an issue, as well as in the basement of the county jail, where aging overhead pipes presented concerns about leaks possibly damaging or destroying evidence. “It wasn’t a great situation,” said Harry Nickels, the department’s evidence manager. “We were running out of room.” After a thorough planning process, the sheriff’s department was given nearly 12,000 square feet in a new county building for evidence intake, a small lab, property storage, and long-term evidence storage. At the same time, the Sheriff set the ambitious goal of gaining accreditation from the Illinois Law Enforcement Accreditation Program (ILEAP) to demonstrate the department’s commitment to best practices with regard to its administration, operations, personnel, and training processes. The department would need to move and store 80,000 items, all while gearing up for accreditation.

THE SOLUTION: EVIDENCE LOCKERS, PIN CODE SECURITY, AND RACKING ON RAILS While the new building was in the planning stages, the evidence manager called on the local Spacesaver consultant to help analyze the department’s storage needs and explain their options. The Spacesaver team measured the existing shelving as well as evidence boxes, gun cases, and other items that the department needed to store. Then the consultant explained the capacity and functionality of the ActivRAC® Mobilized Storage System and other Spacesaver compact mobile storage systems, as well as Spacesaver’s various evidence locker options.

Together they came up with a plan to secure the chain of custody from the time evidence was brought into the new building until it was released to the courts or disposed of according the law. The planning team designed an intake room with a bank of Spacesaver temporary “pass-through” evidence lockers along the back wall. Deputies can place packaged and labeled evidence into the lockers’ front doors, and evidence technicians retrieve the evidence via doors on the back of the lockers, on the other side ofa cement-block wall.

After evidence is logged and processed for long-term storage, it can be placed on one of three areas. Weapons are placed in a PIN-code-protected area at one end of the building. Other boxed evidence is placed on extra-tall Spacesaver compact mobile shelving. Large or very heavy items are placed on the ActivRAC system. The Spacesaver team worked with the construction contractor and subcontractors to coordinate installation of the rails and other system components. Because the department is constantly taking in more evidence than it can legally dispose of, the team designed the facility with room to grow: rails for an additional Spacesaver compact mobile system were placed in the floor for future use.

THE RESULT: AN ACCREDITED SYSTEM WITH ROOM TO GROW In April 2018 the Lake County Sheriff’s Department announced that it was the first, and so far the only, sheriff’s office to receive ILEAP accreditation. Evidence management was part of the thorough accreditation process, and the evidence department’s careful documentation of chain-of-custody procedures, as well as Spacesaver’s evidence storage solutions, contributed to the department’s success.

To learn more about how STORAGELogic can help your station with your ever growing storage needs, please contact our office at 410-472-0824, or email

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