No longer your Father’s evidence management

Assemble all in one place; manage without paper; present without media; and purge electronically

By QueTel

This article is provided by and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Police1.

The 21st Century has seen a revolution in evidence management. The revolution starts from what is collected, to how it is collected, and, then, to how it is handled and stored. New types of evidence such as DNA have largely or entirely replaced serology and hair/fiber collection. Crime scene investigators are as concerned with touch DNA, as they are with latent finger prints.

Visual evidence on rolls of film have been replaced by digital cameras. Smart phones capture videos as well as images. In car cameras write to digital media as opposed to video cassettes. And, body worn cameras capture officer activity in real time.

Browser (web enabled) evidence management applications have made turn of the Century, client server software into legacy systems. High density moveable shelfing has eliminated most aisle space in evidence rooms. Agencies are increasingly moving away from storing digital files on DVDs, to eliminate expensive handling and copying of media, and to make digital files more easily accessible by investigators and courts.

And the change is not done yet. To overcome rudimentary evidence modules in records management systems, agencies create interfaces to specialized software that more effectively manage evidence—intake, custody transfers, inventory, and disposition. FOIA public disclosure is being extended to videos requiring redaction to protect privacy and sensitive information. Smart phones help replace multiple devices, as well as paper, at the scene—digital camera, video camera, voice recorder, and note pad.

With all the change what is missing is a comprehensive approach to evidence management. Lots of pieces separated in different silos of data impose extra time on officers, evidence custodians, criminalists, records clerks, detectives, and prosecutors. Most evidence systems, especially the throw-together evidence modules of records systems, only partially automate relying heavily on paper for the many management tasks required or a warehouse full of specimen—case folders, tickler files, and separate spreadsheets. Much digital evidence is cubby-holed in proprietary repositories of systems for interview, in-car cameras, and body worn cameras.

In assembling evidence from different silos, detectives become research assistants—a piece here, one there, and another over there. Once assembled, there is the problem of sharing it with the DA—DVDs. Prosecutors’ administrative officers complain that they can’t keep track of all the DVDs, they lose track, and then need to request replacements be burned. And then, they have to provide all of this to the defense.

The answer is 21st Century software and policies to stand up to the 21st Century revolution in evidence management. Assemble all in one place; manage without paper; present without media; and purge electronically.

The diagram on the next page charts the means to implement this vision. Physical and digital evidence can be collected directly from digital capture devices. Officers can enter physical evidence descriptions directly into laptops or PC using a screen wizard that is so simple that officers can master its use in minutes. They can add digital evident through the same wizard.

Authorized users can load digital evidence from standalone systems, as interview room and 911 systems; scan documents such as court orders and lab reports; and copy word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and electronic diagrams of the scene into one database.Once collected and assembled to & thru agency forensic units or to and from outside labs, images enhanced, and videos redacted.

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