On the surface, the idea that a state or municipal law enforcement agency would consider outsourcing digital evidence storage to private companies seems far-fetched. As the custodians of evidence, and the chain of custody rules that go with that responsibility, law enforcement would not appear to be a likely candidate to embrace the virtual outsourcing of a portion of the evidence room. After all, police agencies have spent more than a century building bunkers to store and protect evidence and have adopted strict controls centered on the physical possession of evidence. This status quo, however, has been fundamentally changed by the proliferation of connected mobile devices, including smartphones, and the manner in which digital files are stored.
A June 2013 poll by the Pew Internet and American Life Project estimates that about 56 percent of American adults own a smartphone, a trend that necessarily affects how police agencies approach their daily interactions with the public.1 This article explores how the growth of smartphones and other mobile devices fundamentally changes the way police agencies operate, and, consequently, how they store and manage digital evidence.