In this webinar, the Evidence Management Institute’s Executive Director, Shawn Henderson, discussed technology in evidence management. Topics included: why is evidence technology important to you, six game-changing technologies, four essential pieces of technology, and how to evaluate your existing technology and automation.
Shawn covered “Six game-changing technologies,” in Part 1 of this webinar. In Part 2, he talks about the“Four essential pieces of technology,” and “How to evaluate your existing technology and automation.”
Shawn shared a slide, saying, “Let’s talk about four essential pieces of technology. These are my favorites…”
Shawn explained, “Other than some kind of computer device – whether it’s a laptop, a desktop, a really powerful tablet or a mobile phone – these are the only four pieces of tech that you need to run an evidence management operation.
That is to say, if you have appropriate software, you’re going to need some kind of barcode printer; and I recommend using a thermal transfer barcode printer. Those direct thermal printers are cheap, but they are designed to print labels that are gonna last about 15 or 20 minutes.
The label technology that you use is important as well. We recommend polypropylene labels with wax resin ribbons and permanent adhesive.
You also need some kind of barcode scanner. There’s going to be a tipping point when mobile phones will be able to act as our barcode scanners. They’re getting really, really fast. That tipping point is coming quickly, so you certainly don’t have to go out there and buy a $5,000 or $2,000, $1000, or even a $500 barcode scanner. The form factor on barcode scanners, and the speed, has gone just through the roof.
You shouldn’t be spending a lot of money on any of these technologies. The most you’re going to want to spend is on that barcode printer and on ribbons because that’s really going to be the difference maker with your packaging and your label printing.
And lastly, you’re going to need some kind of wireless network. It’s hard to imagine an environment where we don’t have a wireless network to operate. That is becoming more crucial than any other thing; our ability to operate wirelessly. Especially as we migrate towards technologies that are based on wireless technology like tablets and cell phones.”
Shawn changed topics, saying, “Now, let’s talk about how we evaluate our technology. It’s important to ask yourself: Does it make you more efficient? Does it make you more effective? Does it make your agency more sustainable? If you bring in this technology and incorporate it into your operations, is it going to help you do the things that you need to do; repeatedly and reliably, over time? Does it integrate with your other technologies?
Another important piece about technology is not just getting the technology, it’s training people how to use it. It is really important that we train people how to use new technology that we bring on board. Otherwise, it really doesn’t help us that much. It becomes a pretty little paperweight.”
Shawn moved onto a new topic, saying, “Let’s talk a little bit about effective automation software…
Effective automation software should do a few things for you. One, it should facilitate automating all of the evidence management processes that are related to running a property room.
If you’re using a records management system for your evidence management needs, it might be a good idea to look at the things that good evidence management systems can do, to see whether or not you can do the same thing with an RMS.
There are a lot of police agencies out there that will require their evidence management unit to use the RMS because… We bought the RMS, you need to use it. That’s a tragedy because they’re not designed for that. Records Management Systems are designed to do one thing really well. Manage records. Evidence Management Systems are designed to do one thing really well, and that’s manage evidence. Hopefully, we’ll be able to show you some of the differences and distinctions we mentioned about automating all evidence management processes.
We talked about cloud-based hosting, but an effective automation system is going to give you an absolute rock-solid, stable, unbreakable chain of custody record. Every piece of evidence that’s ever come into your agency, from the day it’s entered until the time it leaves.
A true and effective automation system is going to be paperless. And when I say paperless, I mean paperless. If you do have paper records that come in though, those can be scanned and kept in the system. Everything about that item stays in one record, from cradle to grave, with one single comprehensive database.
I know that there are some agencies out there – ours was like this for a while – where we had a paper system, and then we had an old legacy system, and we had a new system. So, we had records in three different systems. Well, that is kind of worthless when you think about it. All the records, of active case evidence, really need to be in one single comprehensive database. Effective automation automates everything.
It’s the old stuff that causes us problems. That’s why we want that old stuff to be in the database, so that we can use it to become more efficient at disposing it. One of my favorite things about effective automation is data entry. I look back at the time that I put 25 pieces of evidence labels together, all based on paper and pen. It was miserable entering the same information over and over and over again. It inevitably leads to inefficiency, ineffectiveness, inaccuracy.
Data entry allows us to become more efficient, more effective, more accurate. It allows submitting officers to enter that information directly. It also eliminates redundant data entry. And we can control the fields and the cleanness of the data that comes in. You can use that information and leverage that to help you do amazing things – in terms of planning and automating and getting rid of stuff – if you’ve got clean data to begin with.
Effective automation provides barcode scanning, automated labeling… One of my favorite things is advanced reporting and forms generation. A good quality automation system is going to generate all of the reports and all the forms that you need. It shouldn’t take you an hour to put a list together of all the currency. That should be something you have available to you in real time; all the time.
Another fun thing that effective automation systems do is facilitate tasks, notifications… and record that stuff in house. That document stays with the data associated with that item.
If you had a task, and an officer has to correct something, all of that is going to be included in the history of that item, and in the chain of custody. It’s completely transparent and we know exactly what’s happened. It really improves the integrity of our evidence.
Good automation systems also create disposition requests and facilitate disposition approvals. The systems are going to help facilitate movement and release information.
The thing I love about effective systems is that you can use your cell phone to capture a signature. You can also document things with the cell phone. It all goes into that same database. It’s really important, especially when you think about officers submitting evidence; we want to get them on board.
Another fun thing is inventory automation. Our first inventory at our agency – the first one we did – we had to do part on paper and part on the computer because of our mess. Stuff that we could do on the computer, happened in the twinkling of an eye. Paper inventories are miserable events. Once you’ve gone through one, you’ll never want to go through another. Effective automation systems allow you to do the inventory of most rooms in a matter of days, if not a single day.
The last thing is real-time, detailed statistical analysis. As an evidence manager, you need to be able to know instantaneously how much cash you have in your storage or in your evidence wall. That’s something that you shouldn’t have to look up. You shouldn’t have to run a report. That should be information that’s available to you in real time, anytime that you turn on the machine.”
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.
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