Police have always needed a way to secure weapons when not in use, but the old days of the manual sign-out sheet are disappearing. Modern weapons lockers not just secure the firearms but also automatically catalog more detailed information than ever provided by a simple signature, date, and time.
“We’re seeing the need across law enforcement for securing, managing, and auditing any piece of equipment. Whether it's a radio, whether it's a firearm, whether it's a vehicle, there is a need to drive accountability over that piece of equipment,” says Craig Newell, vice president of sales and development at Traka.
“Knowing when an individual has been issued a piece of equipment and having a date and time of when that was issued and who's using it and when it was returned, and if it was safely returned, is really important for organizations,” he adds.
Obviously, he points out, from a security perspective there is a level of access control necessary when storing weapons. Typically, Newell says tracking of when weapons are taken from a locker, and returned, has been a manual process involving an officer noting the process in a logbook. But he says there is now a better process and audit trail with the advent of locker systems using an automated electronic log of who checks the weapons out.
Departments are now seeing the value of implementing a solution that expands past just controlling who has access to weapons. Sure, there are ways to control access and unlock the door to a weapons storage locker, whether by pin code or other methods. But more information can now be gleaned.
“Knowing who's opened the door, and when, only gets you part of the way there. You need to know who's physically taking the asset and when, and who's returned it and when. That's where our intelligent RFID lockers come into play because we're actually RFID tagging the weapon and the asset to create that more comprehensive audit trail,” he says. “We are seeing an adoption of more intelligent electronic solutions that are about asset management, not just access management.”
When a department is planning to purchase intelligent locker systems for weapons, or really any other key assets, where should they start? Newell shares five things to consider before buying intelligent weapons lockers. Those five things are:
1. Attempt to Locate
Weapon lockers are more than just opening and closing a door. You need to know where your inventory is and track who has or had them last. Intelligent lockers that help closely monitor weapon usage and hold users accountable for checking out assets, or returning them, have RFID-tagging. By RFID-tagging weapons and other widely used assets, you can closely audit weapon usage and locate where they are or have been at any specific time.
2. Intelligent Unit
An excellent weapons management locker should help prevent favoritism amongst assets, extend their longevity, and save departments money. We know it happens with patrol cars but also with weapons. By having a system in place to help prioritize which weapon has been in the locker the longest instead of the weapon everyone wants to use, you promote even utilization and reduce wear and tear across all your inventory. An intelligent locker management system also helps to identify weapons you need more of and those to replace.
3. An Ounce of Prevention
Faulty equipment costs departments money and opens the agency to risk. Choose a weapon locker that allows the user to identify malfunctioning assets within the system, send an alert to administrators, and stop the weapon from being checked out. Additionally, a good locker solution should allow the administrator to schedule preventative maintenance, ensuring every asset is in compliance and mission-ready at all times. This ounce of prevention saves time and money and has the potential to save lives.
4. Plays Well with Others
Weapon lockers need to be scalable across your department and easily integrated with other systems you may have, such as key cabinets for fleet management or access control cards. Selecting a locker that can improve your workflow and processes because it plays well with other integrations saves maintenance and asset replacement time, centralizes monitoring, and reduces administration costs.
Case in point, Traka visited a university police department recently that had their assets lying around with no management systems. Ticket writers, radios, laptops, and keys – all just lying around. There was no accountability in place, no locker or key management system. After installing a comprehensive management system, they very quickly realized both the efficiencies and benefits of being more accountable, not to mention how much time they saved.
5. Beyond the Hardware
With all their benefits, intelligent weapons lockers can stand independently. However, when purchasing a new system, look for just that, a system. A weapons locker that aligns with firearms training, human resources, or time clock software can create a synergy within your agency that triggers actions and produces audit-ready reporting at any time. Should an officer need to complete paperwork before returning to the field, the software can be programmed to lockdown assets to the individual until they submit their missing documents. Intelligent lockers should be smart enough to work with and align beyond the hardware to deliver the most efficient network of solutions possible.