How an integrated evidence management system can make your department more efficient
An automated system can help get your officers back on the street faster and speed up records searches for investigators and prosecutors
The following is paid content sponsored by QueTel.
By Police1 BrandFocus Staff
Many police agencies are unaware how much they suffer for the lack of automation and integration in handling both physical and digital evidence. Law enforcement professionals at all points in the process face inefficiencies.
Entering digital evidence into multiple, separate systems wastes time that officers and investigators should be using to fight crime, and searching multiple sources makes preparing for court a slow, inefficient process. Managing physical evidence – storing, finding and ultimately clearing out items – is also a huge challenge that requires a lot of time and effort.
These cumbersome processes waste valuable on-the-clock staff time and slow the flow of information. An automated system can help streamline the process, providing a fast and easy means for entering evidence, making records searches more efficient for investigators and prosecutors and providing timely alerts to help agencies dispose of obsolete evidence.
In many departments, officers, investigators and records management employees spend precious hours entering duplicate evidence descriptions on paper forms or clumsy, obsolete computer systems.
Consider photos, which in many departments must be downloaded, entered into the evidence process, approved and then printed or burned to discs for distribution.
Ross Randlett, a retired lieutenant and now a consultant with the Prince William County (Virginia) Police, said his agency’s process, which followed this pattern, was costly in time, resources and personnel. In fact, at one time he was looking to add a full-time imaging assistant to help handle the agency’s backlog of photo evidence.
But the county adopted QueTel’s automated management system instead, and Randlett said he can’t imagine going back to doing it the old way.
“It removed all of the manual aspects of what you had to do, which made us far more efficient,” he said. “I went from needing a full-time person to having to find things for my imaging person to do.”
With an automated evidence management system, officers no longer have to wait for photos to be processed and made available for examination. Once images are uploaded, they become available to other authorized users immediately, enabling officers to get back out on the street and move their investigations forward faster.
Evidence searches and court prep
A single, digital system for evidence management can provide controlled access by all relevant parties and enable officers to spend time on more productive, mission-centric tasks.
Legacy evidence management procedures likely mean that different kinds of evidence are stored in separate, siloed systems. Finding evidence is slow and time-consuming when multiple platforms must be searched. This also slows the process for detectives and prosecutors when they are preparing for court.
A digital system like the QueTel platform, however, creates a single repository – only one place to search. Even better, the system enables access for prosecutors. This means agencies don’t have to spend time and money printing files or burning evidence to discs and delivering them physically to the prosecutor.
This has been a tremendous boon, said Randlett, making it easier for detectives and prosecutors to share information.
“We gave the Commonwealth attorneys access to the system so that when they’re prepping for a case, no matter what time of day or night, they could simply go into the system, put in the case number and they could see the images,” he said.
An automated system also tracks user access so that you know who has logged on and who has uploaded or accessed images or other evidence for a clear chain of custody. The QueTel system locks down an image once it’s uploaded, said Randlett, which keeps them much more secure than unaccounted-for copies on disc.
“If you don’t upload to a secure database, you take that risk of your images getting out. That could be very detrimental to your case,” he said.
Digital evidence requires significant memory but little storage space. Physical evidence is another story. Warehouse space and collapsible shelving are expensive and finite resources, and items must be managed, stored and ultimately disposed of properly.
It can be difficult to keep track of what’s no longer needed, but the key to successfully managing an evidence room is destroying items that have become obsolete.
A barcode system can help. The QueTel evidence management system provides alerts based on the statute of limitations associated with the crime for which an item is held as evidence. When a case has met the statute of limitations and can’t be prosecuted anymore, the system will ask what the evidence manager wants to do with it – change the date or mark the item for destruction.
“Getting stuff in is easy, getting stuff out is hard,” said Randlett. “You can go into almost any property room and find things on shelves that have been sitting there for years that people just forgot about or the paperwork got lost. By having the system do the alerts, you become far more efficient with chasing the evidence.”
Total integration of physical and digital evidence in one system reduces the time officers have to spend on dreaded “paperwork,” frees them to fight crime and protect citizens, and helps detectives and prosecutors marshal evidence for court. With a unified evidence management system, police and prosecutors can bring together and easily access all physical evidence, digital evidence, documents and persons involved in any given case.
For more information on evidence management software, contact QueTel.