In this webinar, we looked at ten steps you can take toward creating a positive evidence management culture change at your agency.
Shawn began the webinar by saying, “Thank you for being here. We’ll direct your attention to a couple of things we do at the beginning of each show. First, is the Evidence Management Community Forum on Facebook. Over 800 evidence custodians have joined and are using it to great effect.
The forum gives you a place to ask questions and to look for solutions that you might not be able to find on your own. We created it to have a place for people to talk. We started back at the beginning of the pandemic and continue to see people using it as a powerful resource. It’s a great place to connect with like-minded evidence custodians and managers.
I’d also like to direct your attention to Tracker Products. This webinar was made possible because of our partnership with them. They’re an evidence management software solution, and I highly recommend that you check them out. They keep the lights on here, and we are very appreciative of that.”
In Part 2 of this webinar, Shawn continued the conversation about changing the culture of evidence management. He said, “Number three, Garbage in garbage out. We are all byproducts of the information that we feed on. It doesn’t matter where you get your news, whether it’s slanted to the left or slanted to the right, it’s slanted.
I would encourage you to look at what you’re putting into your brain, especially with respect to evidence management. Instead of spending time complaining or spending time reading headlines about how terrible everything is, or chatting about how awful the world is, look at your budget.
Find out exactly how much budget money you have, and what the line items are for the budget for your specific unit. Also, review your plans for the future? Do you have best practices in place? Are you innovating?
Even if you can’t impact these things, knowing that information has value. Spend some time reading through policies and procedures for your agency and make sure that you do what you say you do.
These aren’t fun things, but there are things that you could absolutely do today to start changing the culture of evidence at your agency. You might read a policy and realize, We don’t do that anymore.
Integrity is doing what you say you do. So, we might need to look at that policy. We might need to look at this procedure. You might find a procedure that instructs officers on the wrong way to do something; it’s outdated. It hasn’t been replaced unless you review those periodically. And unless you know those like the back of your hand you’re not going spot those problems.
That’s why you should overload yourself with good information. The Biological Evidence Preservation Handbook (in the image above)…read that thing from cover to cover, if you haven’t done it before. I know I mention that book all the time, and I do that because it’s a great resource. I promise you’ll get something from it that is gonna benefit you. That’s going to be of value.
You’re the expert at your agency. People rely on you to know what to do when it comes to evidence management. Even if it’s day one, you’re the expert because nobody else knows as much as you do about your unit. So, spend some time putting good information inside your brain. It will benefit you. I promise.
Number four is, Seek community.
I’m counting the number of people watching this online. I hope that those people have joined an association. If you’re watching tomorrow, or the next day, or the next week, it’s not too late. Seek out community, build community, and join a community.
And if you don’t want to do that, the easiest thing to do today to impact the culture of evidence at your agency is to pick up the phone. Pick up the phone and call an evidence custodian in the town right next to you, ask ’em to go to lunch and find out about their operations.
That is a very easy thing to do. And that act, in and of itself, is not a big, special thing. Going to lunch is nice. Being proactive, calling somebody to say, Hey, let’s go to lunch. Let’s talk about our evidence rooms. That builds inertia, starting those intentional conversations. It also builds community. So, that’s one thing that you can do today to impact change.
Number five is, Start small and think big.
The picture below is a shelf with tons and tons of packages. It’s my least favorite thing to look at. I hate seeing shelves organized that way. It makes me sad in my heart to see those things. And it gets overwhelming.
If you magnify that by a factor of 50, it’s mind-numbing. But start with one shelf. Start with one-half of one shelf, if you can’t break it down to a shelf. The important thing is to start somewhere.
The thing we don’t want to do, the worst thing, the opposite of starting small, is to go take another package and cram it into that shelf the way we’ve always done it. Start small, think big. We want to have an organized, clean, sustainable operation. And that happens one shelf at a time. That happens one location at a time. That happens one refrigerator at a time. These are small steps that you can take. You don’t have to eat the whole thing at once. So you can think big, but start small.
Number six is, Think outside the Kraft bag.
I tend to think about my problems, especially evidence problems, as only evidence management-related problems; like… This only affects evidence managers or evidence custodians.
But, if we think outside of that Kraft bag, outside of our vault, outside the box, about how things impact others outside us, sometimes that can build momentum for change even outside of your unit.
When I think about trying to improve evidence entry or data entry for a submitting officer and patrol. When I think about improving that officer’s experience for submitting evidence to my unit – that pays off dividends when it makes my system better – it also makes their job easier.
And those types of things – where we’re thinking outside of ourselves, outside the Kraft bag, outside the vault – those pay off. When we think about how stakeholders are impacted or how other groups are impacted by our work, it makes us think differently about the work that we do.
Number seven is, Practice an attitude of gratitude.
This is not something that I do well, but this is something that James (bottom left of all images) does well at Orange County. Celebrate small successes. We get so much more energy generated and change generated when we celebrate small successes. I’m not saying to give every officer that submits a piece of evidence to your unit a participation trophy.
I’m talking about catching people who are doing something right. Let them know that you see them. Let them know that you see them doing something correctly and that you appreciate the value in that. It changes our mindset from, Officers can’t do anything right, to This officer did something right.
James, tell us what y’all do at Orange County.”
James said, “Well, for starters, we improved our right of refusal policy. It seemed like some of our folks in the evidence unit felt like that was really their only opportunity to make corrections based on power-flexing. And, I had an issue with that.
I talked to them and said, Hey, maybe use that as an opportunity to be more humble, explaining and teaching the officers. Use the corrections as an educational moment when you have deputies or officers coming in to make changes to their package. If they feel like you’re being negative to them or being demeaning to them, then what’s the point of us being a support service.
I mean, our function is really to take care of our patrolmen and investigations units. So, I think we’ve failed if we’ve ostracized them to the point where they don’t want to come down and fix something about their other evidence. So, I wanted us to always be reinforcing; letting them know that we appreciate their cooperation.
If there’s anything they need from us, we’re always available to show them how to do it. And then from time to time, we’ll send ’em an email and let them know, Hey, thanks for the way you did this packaging or how you do this. Or, if there’s anything that you need from our unit that could better help you do your job… So, those are the kind of things that we do to keep the relations positive. I mean we have 2,700 deputies, so, it’s a labor-intensive thing. But, I think it pays off dividends in the end.
This additional idea came from another agency. They were kind of outta sight outta mind. No one ever really paid them any attention. So, they put a big whiteboard out in front of their basement area where the command staff came in every day.
On that whiteboard, they started putting positive messages. If their homicide unit had a big, high-profile case and their work helped to get ‘life without the possibility of parole,’ that evidence unit would thank their homicide guys. Hey, thank you so much for the work that you put into this. And this is the outcome…
And by doing that – praising another unit – you’re actually reminding your command staff that you’re actually part of that judicial process as well. Those are little subliminal ways of helping to elevate your unit or at least get some positive attention to an otherwise unseen area of the department.”
Shawn said, “I love that idea. Most of us are wired to be on the look for problems. We want to find a problem and point out a problem, but sometimes we need to have our eyes focused on problems and good things.
I mean, keep your eyes open, seek opportunities to praise people. To write an accommodation that pays off and creates dividends that you can’t get any other way.
Number eight is, Random acts of kindness.
This might seem a little fluffy, but it’s good to do something good for the purpose of just doing it… because it’s good. Those kinds of things generate energy. And I’ve got an example for you today.
My friends at MAPE, the Missouri Association for Property and Evidence, recently launched their website. They started the organization in October or November of 2019. Then the world closed down for a year and a half.
This is a new organization for people in Missouri to get together and build networks, build relationships, and educate one another about evidence. It’s a great organization. They just launched their website and one of the things that you can do on their website is donate online to their association. They’re a new association. They’re just getting started. It takes a lot of money to reach people and to do the work that they’re trying to accomplish for the state of Missouri.
So one random act of kindness that you could do today could cost you anywhere from a dollar, which is not a lot, but there is no upper limit. I think it’d be cool – if you’ve got no other random-act-of-kindness ideas – is donate to them. Give ’em some money to help ’em get started.
You can be a part of somebody else’s change process. You vote with your money. You vote with your mouth. You vote with your actions. This is something that you can do that is proactive and is going to make a difference. Even if it’s not in your state, Missouri could benefit as well.
Number nine is, A word of discouragement.
As you start thinking about culture change, we are hard-wired as human beings to pay more attention to criticism and discouraging words. We are attuned to that frequency. We hear that stuff. There is scientific research… for every word of discouragement that you hear from someone, it takes 20 affirmations or words of encouragement to actually make up for the damage that was done with that one word of discouragement.
But, we’re not always gonna be encouraging. We’re not always gonna be able to be Mary Poppins and sunshine, but it’s really important to be judicious – and to also consider the impacts and implications – of those words of discouragement.
Number 10 is, Fail forward.
When it comes to changing the culture of evidence management, whether it’s at your agency or in this industry, we’re going to fail. Failure is an absolute option. It’s going to happen. We’ll probably fail more than we succeed and that’s okay. I think it’s good to get comfortable with the concept of, It’s all right to fail. We’re going to have missteps.
We move forward from those mistakes. We don’t make those same mistakes again. That’s the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Those are 10 things that you can do today to start the culture change process.
The culture that we exist in has been so pervasive for so long. It just needs to change and we have to be the initiator of change. No one’s coming in to save it for us. No one’s coming in to change our minds or to change our circumstances. It’s gotta start with us.”
Shawn looked at a comment in the dialogue box and said, Virginia Connolly wrote, ‘One thing I’ve been encouraging for both records and property is to go to patrol briefings. Just sit in the back of the room, allow them to ask you questions, and open the dialogue to help them be successful.’
I love that. We’re in a relationship business. The more personal we make it, the more we invest in our agencies, our officers, and our community, the better. Just make yourself available.
I encourage you to go out and do something new today. We gave you 10 things – 11 including Virginia’s tip – that you could start doing because change begins with you. Thank you for being here. I look forward to seeing you next time.”
The Evidence Management Community Forum– A FB page with over 800 evidence management members who discuss everything in the realm of evidence management.
- The E-Health Check – a FREE assessment designed to provide clients with a snapshot of their operations compared to key performance indicators for sustainable evidence operations.
- The Evidence Management Comparison Worksheet – This free downloadable spreadsheet is pre-populated with 49 factors to consider. You have the ability to rank the importance of each factor and add additional fields for consideration.
- FREE Evidence Management Training Videos – This online training includes 8 hours of EMI evidence management training, an online exam, and a completion certificate.
- “The Evidence Show” – In each episode, EMI discusses the unique issues that impact evidence managers, custodians, and the law enforcement community in general. Most episodes include special guests who are experts on a variety of topics.
- A Series of Tracker Webinars – Live or recorded, they are loaded with: Virtual Evidence Unit Tours, Evidence Management Best Practices, Tips for Getting the Tools You Need to Improve Operations, and much more!
- Weekly Articles – Topics include, but are not limited to: Best Practices for Audits, Inventories, Packaging, Digital Evidence Storage, Disposition, etc.
- Tracker’s Resources – Blogs, Portfolio, Wiki Page, Evidence Management Software Comparison Tools, and SO much more.
- EMI’s Resources – Standards and Best Practices, Evidence Related Links, and Blogs that are LOADED with information.
- 22 in 2022 – the Evidence Management Institute wants to see the number of state or regional evidence management organizations jump from 10 to 22 by the end of 2022. And, they’ll help underrepresented areas make that happen, every step of the way!
- Daily Social Media Posts – Both Tracker and EMI post information-rich content to several SM platforms every single day. There, you will find: recorded webinars, infographics, original articles, training videos, standards and best practices, testimonials, and much more.
- FREE TEMS Audit – Every new Tracker Products client, who purchases two or more Concurrent Access Licenses (CALs) will receive a free audit. The audit begins with the online E-Health Check. Based on the results of the EHealth Check, audits may include: A policy and procedure review, facility inspection, and an organization, packaging, and storage review.
- NEW! FREE – In-Person, 2-Day Evidence Management Training and Certification Classes – Nationwide!
This may feel like information overload, but it’s better to have too many resources than too few. As we said before, start small and think big. Pick one thing you can do to change, learn, and improve every day, beginning today. Consistency is key to evolution.
***Be sure to consistently check back on these resources as they are constantly evolving.