Identifying Issues and Creating Solutions in Evidence Management

Posted on: May 04, 2023

Categories: Evidence Management, Evidence management training, Evidence Training

In this webinar, James Nally, a former evidence management custodian for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and current Tracker Products representative, talks about identifying issues and creating solutions in evidence management.

James opened by saying, “Today we’re going to talk a little bit about doing ‘Agency Spotlights’ in the future. If you don’t know what Agency Spotlight is, it is a little video segment that we would like to do when an agency has something that they want to show off, something they’re proud of. 

It could be anything. It could be technology-driven, it could be a procedure or new tool, or maybe they’ve got that shiny new gun buster in their evidence room. Having been in an evidence room for almost 30 years, I love to see the way other agencies operate, whether it’s a tool, technology, or process. A lot of times folks can implement something similar in their units. 

Before we get started, let’s talk a little bit about our Evidence Management Community Forum on Facebook. If you haven’t become a member yet, I would highly recommend it. It’s a great forum to ask questions, get answers, or just keep an eye on the conversation to see if anything applies to your unit. With over 1000 members, we have some superstar people on the evidence management Facebook page. 

On a different note, Tracker Products is one of our partners; without them, we wouldn’t be here. So we definitely have to say thank you to them each and every time. We appreciate everything that Tracker has done for the evidence management community.

Evidence Management State Associations

Now, let’s talk about state associations. For those of you that are in a state that does not have a state association for property and evidence yet, Shawn is a very strong supporter of implementing associations. They are designed to be a place where folks can meet, network, and share information that is general or state specific.

Evidence management

They are critical. I just recently came back from my state seminar, the Cape California Association of Property Evidence (CAPE). This year it was held in San Diego. It was amazing this year. It was so great to get to see friends that we haven’t seen for quite a long time, because of the pandemic, from different parts of the state. And I would like to send a big thank you to all the members of CAPE, the state board, and the amazing seminar team that put it on. 

The training at CAPE this year was beyond great. They always do an introduction to evidence or some of the basic stuff for the new people. And I did see a ton of new people this year. It was exciting to meet some new folks that replaced other friends of mine that had retired or moved on. I can’t speak highly enough about that. 

Above, you can see the current states that have existing state associations. So if you’re from a state that does not have a state association and you’d like to get a little bit more information about starting an association, please feel free to reach out to Shawn. He is always available to talk about implementing new boards for different states.

Now, onto the show… Thinking Outside the Box and Inside the Circle. What does that mean? Instead of just going with the flow, try coming up with some ideas that are outside the box. Let’s say we have some issues with our disposition. We want to create a solution. How do we create a solution? Well, automation is one area. 

Addressing the Humanoids in Evidence Management

Some folks have a tickler file based on a crime code, or it could be any other piece of information that’s specific to that case that you can use to find out some information about your statute of limitations. So here’s a good example… I’ve seen so many different kinds of software in the last year or so that have come up with different forms of tickler files, right?  

If you have an issue with dispositions, don’t just think, ‘It’s just a workaround. We’re gonna have to just work a little harder to try and figure this out.’ If there are ways to automate sending tasks to your county courthouse or your DA’s office it saves a LOT of time. If you can allocate those types of things to their database, it makes it a lot easier to get the information you need to make educated decisions about disposition. 

Maybe your issue is with intake. For example, maybe you’re having problems with your officers packaging your evidence incorrectly. In that case, what are some things you could do differently by thinking outside the box? 

Well, creating a packaging manual, that’s definitely one way. But, that’s not too outside the box. I think a lot of folks already have packaging manuals, but how about the idea of attending briefings? You could use that time to talk to folks in briefings about proper packaging, or you could even do a demonstration about items that are most commonly packaged incorrectly. 

Or you could “Give Out Monsters.” I heard a unique idea from an agency in California… When an officer is booking in property, if they do a good job – or it was something that was really unique that they had to book in and package –  sometimes they’ll give out energy drinks or just little trinkets to say thank you for doing a good job. 

That might sound kind of crazy, but that’s out-of-the-box thinking, right? I mean, if you’re developing a relationship and building a rapport with your patrol guys or investigations and you give ’em a nice trinket, it means a lot.

That reciprocates as well. At our agency, whenever our homicide guys came back from a successful day in court, where they put away a homicide suspect for life without the possibility of parole, they always came in and congratulated us for being a part of the prosecution team. And they always brought us little trinkets of thanks. Whether it was donuts or energy drinks or something like that. It makes you feel special and makes you feel like what you did helped to get the best results possible. 

You can also create a packaging help kiosk. Our agency created a packaging kiosk a while back. Basically, it’s a computer monitor with a touch screen that gives you a step-by-step video tutorial about how to book something in. Mainly the videos we about the most commonly mispackaged items. 

That started as a result of the time-consuming process of identifying an item, sending a right of refusal notice to the officer, waiting for a response, waiting for them to come down, and pulling the item again to make the correction. 

I’m sure you’ve all dealt with that. But the good thing about it is after we implemented that program – and we had to install 14 substations, so putting those monitors with that information at every substation was a pretty monumental task – but once we were done, we noticed that at least the common mistakes, that we had made tutorials for, we were getting a 30% efficiency increase. Meaning that 30% of the right-of-refusal notifications had gone down. 

We increased our efficiency. A packaging kiosk is kind of time-consuming, but if you keep having repeat offenders for the same thing, and training education hasn’t helped, maybe a booking kiosk would help your agency. I think the younger generation enjoys watching videos and learning from them. 

What are some other unique that you can think outside the box? Truly, the possibilities are limitless. I liked to walk around the unit from time to time and I’d ask my staff, ‘Hey, are we doing things as efficiently as possible? Do you think there’s anything that we can improve technology-wise?’ 

evidence management

Sometimes folks had concerns with our technology. Thinking… Maybe we can add a specific field or something to capture information that we hadn’t captured before. I mean, things were changing all the time in our unit.

To me, one of the biggest changes that we were dealing with at the time was powered evidence. The chain of custody for phones, tablets, or any type of electronic digital device should include ways to keep them powered on when they get booked in. 

My point is, we’re always gonna have new trends, new things to deal with. One week it’s powered evidence. The next week it could be a new drug. So keep your mind open. 

Maybe you could attend some other state association training. I just mentioned the CAPE – the California Association of Property and Evidence. They just had their week-long state seminar.  But, there’s also the property association in Florida. So, just because you live in, say Washington DC or North Carolina, doesn’t mean that you can’t travel to their conference as well.

You can also create a new tool or process for a specific task. It could be something as simple as an inbox for incoming dispositions or a new piece of office equipment, like a new cart that you use to take evidence to your warehouse. So the possibilities are limitless. 

Another tip is to consider outside entities to learn from. A while back when I was involved with the local chapter board of CAPE, I came up with the idea to go to Amazon. Why would we go to Amazon? Like what does Amazon have? Well, I’ve always heard that Amazon has one of the most intense, most elaborate, and most cutting-edge database management systems. 

So, we got a hold of some folks at Amazon, organized a trip to their fulfillment center in San Bernardino, and it was a really positive experience. We actually gleaned a lot of information based that some of us took back to their agencies and are using their processes now. So it’s things like that… thinking outside the box. 

I want to ‘tease’ something real quick… Just recently I went to a theme park. I won’t say which one, but they have mouse ears on all of their hats. And I wanted to tour their property room. I’ve been trying to work on that since 2016. And that opportunity just finally presented itself. We’re gonna talk about that next time on the evidence show. 

My point is that sometimes other entities, even if they’re not in law enforcement or property evidence, have specific tasks and duties that parallel what we do. And we can always learn from other entities as well. 

And then finally, look for resources in your community. What does that mean? Not too long ago, we had an unfortunate issue in our area and we needed some freezer space. So we started looking around the county. Instead of contacting a vendor and spending thousands of dollars a month to rent freezer space, we were able to utilize some county resources and wound up getting some temporary freezer systems in Conex boxes to help out.

 A lot of out-of-the-box thinking is based on catastrophic recovery, which is an element that we teach during the EMI Training and Certification class as well.

In the next webinar, we’ll discuss the Disney tour. I had heard for many years that Disney had this amazing process in which they were able to reunite some folks with their lost property before they left the park. In some other cases, the items were in people’s mailboxes before they even returned home. We actually got a really amazing tour of their lost and found section. So, very cool. I think you’re gonna love it. 

It’s pretty spectacular to think about the volume alone; how much property they take in per day, and how much of that gets reunited with their owners. So maybe we can learn some things from the way they do business at the Magic Kingdom. But for next time, I’m sure Shawn will probably be back. Take care, everyone!”

Tracker Products and The Evidence Management Institute want to contribute to your ongoing education through a series of FREE online evidence management training classes. You can also watch the Tracker Products webinars, check out The Evidence Show! (recorded webinars), or attend the FREE! In-Person, Two-Day Evidence Management Certification Training Classes

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