Shawn began the presentation by saying, “So, let’s talk about why evidence technology is important to you as an evidence custodian or an evidence manager. Evidence management requires a lot of precision and accuracy. Human beings, by default, are not very precise and they’re not very accurate. But, we require this precision and this accuracy from all of the stakeholders in the evidence management process.
Your officers submitting evidence need to be precise and accurate. Your evidence custodians in the back, putting the evidence away, have to operate with a high degree of precision and accuracy. And, technology helps facilitate that.
I remember being a patrol officer… we took a case where there were about 25 different pieces of evidence associated. As an officer submitting evidence back then, we didn’t have any automation in place at our agency. So, if you took in 25 pieces of evidence, that meant you filled out a paper property sheet, you documented 25 pieces of evidence, and then you filled out hand-labeled evidence tags for each piece that you submitted. Those tasks involved multiple time-consuming processes that can be better facilitated through appropriate technology.
Another reason why evidence technology is important to us as evidence managers is simply because we have to compete for resources with every other entity; not just in the department… within the city. When we have to compete for resources, we have to look for ways to help us become more efficient and more effective in ways that cut costs over time.
Another truth about why evidence management is important to us as evidence managers is… we’re very rarely staffed at a level that would allow us to perform all of the tasks that we need to perform – from intake of evidence, storing evidence, maintaining the room, doing inventories, doing audits, routinely performing dispositions – at a rate that is sustainable.
We just couldn’t do those things without the benefit of some technology; to make us more efficient, to make us faster. We’re probably never going to be staffed at levels where a manual process would make any sense at all. And quite honestly that would be a waste of time. It’d also be a waste of taxpayer dollars and we don’t want to do that either. We want to make good, judicious use of our resources.”
So what is technology?
About this, Shawn said, “When we’re talking about evidence technology, we’re not just talking about evidence management software like Tracker. That’s certainly a huge piece of technology, but that’s not all there is to think about.
I think about James Nally; he was leveraging computer technology and video technology to make a better packaging manual. Anything that makes us more efficient, more effective, more sustainable is a type of evidence technology. Technology is communication, automation, connection and integration.
We’re in an age where we’re getting technology into our hands, and we’re moving away from the desktop, and getting out into the streets. So, technology is rapidly evolving and it’s important for us as evidence managers to evolve along with it.
There are four things that any new technologies should do for you. It should: increase your efficiency, it should increase your effectiveness, it should also help you achieve sustainability. By sustainability, I mean we’re able to do our jobs long-term with the resources that we have. We almost always have to leverage some kind of technology in order to achieve sustainability.
Another critically important piece about evidence technology is that it needs to integrate with the technology that you already have. If your technology doesn’t integrate, then we’ve got all these disparate systems out there that don’t talk to each other; they don’t work well together. That’s really the next big shift in law enforcement technology… having systems talk to each other. Doing so will reduce redundancy.
RELATED: EFFECTIVE EVIDENCE TRACKING SYSTEMS
So, let’s talk about some game-changing technologies. A software system designed exclusively for evidence management is going to be a game changer; helping you do things that you could never do before – and I would highly encourage you to look into that – but there are other types of game-changing technologies out there.
One of my favorites is the currency counter. A currency counter is a game changer, especially when you’re dealing with large quantities of currency. I know that there is a principal out there that police officers cannot count money. And it’s true. I remember an officer and me, we counted about $20,000 together, the same way, wrong… twice. That’s really hard to do with a currency counter. It just makes everything accurate. It makes it efficient, and kicks it out into separate bill stacks, and also kicks out counterfeit currency.
It will record serial numbers too. If you’ve ever had to dig through a bag of cash – or submit a lot of cash, or take in cash and deposit cash after it’s been submitted – a currency counter is going to make a world of difference.
Another game-changing technology is key control systems. Every evidence management training class, everybody of standards, every book of best practices requires agencies to take tight control over their card reader access, and key access, in secure parts of the evidence facility. The best way to facilitate that is with an automated key control system.
It’s a true game-changer and it keeps you from having to change locks over, and over, and over again because you know exactly where every key is and where it’s been.
Another game-changer out there… I was teaching a class in California. During the same week of the class, someone in there was hit with a ransomware virus. At the same time, my home agency – the agency I retired from – was also hit with a very similar virus, and they lost a lot of data because they were on a locally-based server. Locally-based machines used to be all the rage. I mean we would encourage people, you have to have your server behind your lock closed doors in order to be secure. Well, that’s no longer true anymore.
The latest application of existing technology is moving everything to the cloud. The federal government is moving its operations to the cloud. The military is moving their records, access, and applications to the cloud…. It just makes sense for things to be cloud-based. Locally-based servers are going the way of the dinosaur. Unless you have a massive IT infrastructure, and an IT team that is dedicated to keeping that thing up and running – and you’ve got money to scale that system up when you need new storage – I would highly recommend cloud-based storage.
RELATED: EVIDENCE MANAGEMENT – IF YOU’RE NOT GETTING BETTER, YOU’RE GETTING WORSE
The fifth game-changer, that we’ll talk about, is mobile phones. I think there will always be room for a desktop application for evidence management – especially when you’re crunching a lot of data and looking at a lot of information. But, we’re reaching a tipping point where we’re going to be able to do this stuff on a mobile phone; at least all of the exchange work. Maybe even inventories.
There are applications out there – and Tracker has one that you should take a look at – where you can do this on your mobile phone. And it’s really close to where we don’t need signature capture pads anymore. I don’t think that that’s a necessity because of what we can do on tablets and mobile phones
So, that’s another game-changer out there; moving applications away from desktops and tablets and moving them to our mobile phones. We’ve always got one in our hand anyway. It’s pretty cool to see what’s available out there and what’s possible on a mobile phone.
The last thing I want to talk about is not really what most people would think of as a technology – it’s not digital, but it is a technology – high density mobile storage. Storage technology is a type of technology. It’s a better tool that can make you more efficient, more effective and more sustainable. It can take your existing footprint and become a force multiplier and give you more square footage overnight. So, those are the six things to think about if you haven’t thought about them before.
The Evidence Management Institute and Tracker Products want to give you something productive to think about during this time of uncertainty. This is the sixth webinar in a series of free evidence management training and panel discussions. Watch and comment on the recordings here, or – to get in on the discussion – join the Evidence Management Community Forum.
To learn more about the Evidence Management Institute, VISIT EMI HERE.
To learn more about Tracker Products, CLICK HERE.