An audit of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office’s property and evidence room has highlighted issues with its tracking methods, concluding that the system is not working as it should.
The audit, released Thursday, found that a barcode inventory system does not provide an electronic trail of property as it moves from one place to another. Its technicians are instead relying on manual data input for property and evidence, the audit shows.
Johnson County is using a system first developed more than 10 years ago that does not meet the needs of the sheriff’s office, the audit says.
Enhancements to the system requested in 2019 would allow scanning printed barcodes to automatically track the movement of property and evidence, which sometimes change locations within the property room or — in the case of evidence — to Johnson County District Court. But other changes have yet to be put in place.
Barcode labels are being created and attached to property and evidence once brought to the property room, the audit found. The specific changes that have not been made would also use electronic signature pads to record movement of items and generate hard-copy reports for chain of custody.
Findings of the audit were presented to the Johnson County Board of Commissioners on Thursday morning by Lynn Smith, a senior auditor with the county. She said, simply put, “the barcode inventory system is not working as intended.”
Recommendations from the audit direct the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office to follow the county’s information technology policy and update its policies and procedures for property room technicians on a regular basis. The audit also suggests the county’s Justice Information Management Systems department, which supports the sheriff’s office with technology, should develop an appropriate solution.
All recommendations outlined in the audit have been agreed to by the sheriff’s office and the management systems department. And some changes to the system are currently under way.
Dylan Gentry, with Justice Information Management Systems, told commissioners that fulfilling the recommendations outlined in the audit would likely be accomplished by Jan. 1. The programming staff is using a new law enforcement records management software that is expected to resolve the issues.
Speaking to Johnson County commissioners, Sheriff Calvin Hayden said technical challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic have delayed a full rollout of the barcode system. The sheriff also said there is no room for error with changes to property room management, highlighting the importance of chain of custody in court cases.
“We can’t take a chance in our property room,” Hayden said. “It’s zero tolerance. If one case gets lost or something goes on, it destroys the credibility of the entire property room. So, it moves very slow with what we do.”
Despite the audit’s findings, the sheriff said the property and evidence room is working currently.
“There’s no structural deficiencies in our property room. Never has been, never will be. We’re not missing anything. It’s there,” Hayden said, later adding: “There’s nothing broke, there’s just things we can do better, and we can be more efficient.”