Evidence Management – Advanced Locker Technology – Part 2

Posted on: Dec 27, 2021

Categories: Uncategorized

“The Evidence Show” is hosted by EMI Executive Director Shawn Henderson. Not to spoil the plot, but The Evidence Show is, well… a show about evidence management. In each episode, we look at the unique issues that impact evidence managers, custodians, and the law enforcement community in general. In this episode, Shawn continues the conversation about cool ways to submit evidence, with endless future applications!

***Marty (top), Shawn (center), and John (bottom). 

John began the second half of this webinar by saying, “With these locker systems you get that granular information of exactly who accessed them and when they accessed them. The AssetTracer, in particular, provides a lot of different access methods. 

This can be a simple pin code, that’s assigned to every individual who would need to input and take out evidence from the locker. But, you can also use your existing access control cards for your facility, so there’s no additional credential that they need to remember to carry around with them. Or, alternatively, we can use a biometric, that could be: face, palm, fingerprint, or iris scanning. More recently, [due to COVID] we have the ability to screen for temperature as well… before individuals are placing anything in those lockers or removing.

It gives you the ability to really control the access to those locations. With these credentials, the biometrics in particular – the specific ones that the AssetTracer provides – have the ability to screen whether or not there’s any blood flow or body heat in the particular part of the body that’s being scanned. So, you can’t bring a severed finger to get into the locker. Not that you would, but it just reduces that potential.”

Shawn said, “That definitely happens a lot in spy movies. So, it’s good that you’ve accounted for that.”

Laughing, John said, “To your point about pass-thru security, we have that granularity on both sides of the locker. So, on the input and the removal of the asset, we know exactly when it was put in, how long it’s been in there, who put it in, etc. Also… who removed it, when they removed it, and even how many different pieces of evidence they removed. So, they can note all of that during the transaction, and it gives you those extra data points for tracking.

We’ve all seen CSI when people are rooting through that evidence room, where they’ve dropped off bags of drugs and money. This reduces the ability for people to go in and take things at will. The chances of that happening are pretty slim. It probably doesn’t happen that often, but it gives you that certainty that it is not going to happen. And, if it does happen, then you’ve got a paper trail that can’t be edited or altered by the end user. 

With the RTNHub software that runs the evidence locker, it’s going to give you all the real-time reporting and alerts every time evidence is deposited, how long it’s been in there, and when the compartments are full.

That is essentially going to be one of your biggest issues. Or, maybe there are no compartments left that are the size that are needed for evidence that needs to be put in. The system is going to allow you to see all of that information in real time; so you can make more educated decisions about your management efforts.

We’ve got all the reporting in the back end for all of these transactions… 

This (above) is a step-by-step deposit withdrawal report. It’s going to be very granular. It shows you every time a locker is opened, tells you every time a locker is closed, it tells you exactly who deposited what item, and you can see the descriptions that individual put in there. You can even see the item and case number in there as well. 

 

There’s also a lot of room for you to add custom fields and custom information. With products like AssetTracer and RTNHub, Real Time Networks designs all of the software and physical architecture in house. If there’s a particular field that you need, or a particular functionality that’s required, we can accommodate those very specific requirements. 

We’ve also got locker inventory reports. This is one of those reports (above) that you would be able to view and see what assets or evidence is: currently in the locker system, who put them there, how long they’ve been in there, what time they were put in there… that sort of thing. And it will show you the specific compartment that evidence resides in.”

About the slide above, Marty said, “I can speak to this one… Some of the other considerations you might want to think about as well is found property. When someone walks in, and they want to check something before they go in – like a wallet, some ID, or cash – people can self administer. They can go up with a pin number to check it themselves. You have a trackability with that as well. It’s not just for evidence, as I mentioned before, it can be for guns, or tasers, or radars.

Regarding Shawn’s Best Practices… you DO want [evidence and found property] in two different locations. But, it can all be in the same database, same software, across different terminals. It will still work together as integrations to Evidence Management System (EMS), or Record Management Systems (RMS) as well. 

RELATED: JUST USE THE RMS: RESPONDING TO FOUR WORDS THAT MAKE EVIDENCE MANAGERS CRINGE

We have an API, and we’re a software company, so we’re quite good at the integration piece. We have an open API and some STKs, so if you’re looking for things like that, we can assist in those areas as well.”

Shawn said, “Sorry, could you go back one slide, to the ‘Other Consideration’ slide. (see above)  I just want to hit on a couple of these a little more… number one and three. Because one of the things that I’ve always thought would be really freaking cool was if we had the ability – and I’ve thought this throughout the pandemic – to return property to owners [without having contact with them] in a way that captures all the chain of custody, transition, and documentation that records the movement and takes all of their information to make sure that the correct person is identified. 

It’s kind of like an Amazon locker. I’m enamored with Amazon. If you hate Amazon, I apologize in advance, but sometimes I order things that I don’t even need just to get it that same day. And with Amazon, the technology is such that you can order things, they put it in a locker, the system will send a code that is unique to you, and then you pick up that item. That entire process is carried out without human interaction, other than someone putting it in a locker. 

Same thing with property releases or evidence. When I worked on evidence, it would annoy me sometimes when I would get laser-focused on a task in the back, and I would hear the little buzzer go off. There’s someone at the counter that’s there to pick up evidence. 

One of the cool things that could be done by leveraging the same technology is you could put stuff in the locker, notify people that it’s there – send them a text, send them an email, give them a QR code – that is specific to them, that authorizes them to pick up the item.

They could walk up to the terminal, put their thumbprint down to make sure that they are who they say they are. Scan their DL (Driver’s License)… all that fun stuff could be done through the technology. And then, it’s released to them, the door is closed, and the chain of custody record is completely encoded and encapsulated in that transaction. That’s next level stuff. That would be really cool to see in evidence rooms. I just think that there is a huge place for that. 

The third thing I want to hit on to make sure people understand… is the way great technology is designed to integrate with other technologies. If you’ve listened to me for any length of time, I believe that there are very fundamental, important functionalities and things that need to happen within an evidence management system to appropriately document and take care of the evidence process from cradle to grave. 

A system like Real Time Networks could integrate with a system like Tracker Products and work in concert to automate processes in a way that doesn’t exist right now. So, I get excited when I hear things like this, because it’s cool technology and it could be a game changer in a lot of different areas for evidence custodians. It can reduce some of the headaches of what we do and it can shore up some of the weaknesses in the way we currently do things. And, that’s always a good idea.” 

Shawn took some questions from the audience, “Anna has a question about cost. I mean, is that something that y’all are comfortable talking about?  Is it less than $1 billion for federal clients?” 

Marty laughed and said, “Exactly what I was going to say… $1 billion. It all depends on the size of the [locker] door. I think the smallest one is a couple hundred dollars and the bigger ones can go up to $800 or a thousand. There’s that to consider, and the terminal, and the software you choose. 

Some of our locker systems out there have been as little as $7,000 to $8,000. But, if you’re getting one with multiple doors… 50 or 60 can go up to $50,000. So, it depends. That’s why I talked about the modularity approach. In the past, you had to commit to a lot of money because you’d have to get six or eight or 10 doors at a time. That’s why we did modularity, to bring the cost down and the footprint down as well. 

Then there is a small recurring fee as well. Usually, it’s a percentage of the cost that goes into the software. By the way, it’s on-prem. We have it on the server there. We like that for security reasons. It’s behind your firewall. We can do it in the cloud as well. And so again, it depends on the size of the purchase. What the cost of the software will be. We do constant updates all the time. So, it is worth actually paying into that because you’re getting improvements all the time. Does that answer the question?” 

Shawn said, “Well, I think the answer is… it depends. At least gives somebody a place to start in terms of thinking about it. Are we talking about $12 dollars or are we talking about $1 billion dollars? Somewhere in between 12 and 1 billion. So, we’ve narrowed it down.” 

Shawn changed gears and said, “I think I can answer one of the questions that was on the screen: How do you know what’s in the locker? The system knows what’s in the locker based on what the officer types into the system. That’s just like any evidence management system. We rely on the initial data that the officer types into the system to know what is being submitted.”

Marty said, “I guess the only thing I could add to that… with evidence, you’re probably right. I don’t know if this would play into evidence, but we have RFID stickers that go on there and readers inside the locker. We typically do that for tasers, or guns, or expensive or dangerous things that go in there. You’ll definitely know it’s in there and the system will email you. 

Does that play into evidence? Maybe not so much. Tags can go on things and they can be read. That’s a possibility. And when you plug things in, like a phone or a tablet –  Android or iOS – it gets power, and it has a unique identifier that tells you what’s inside the locker. We do have those capabilities and we do it all the time. So, automatically identifying the content in the locker could play into evidence sometime in the future.”

Tracker Products and The Evidence Management Institute want to give you something productive to think about during this time of uncertainty… a series of free evidence management training and panel discussions. Watch and comment on the webinars here. Or – to get in on the discussion, with over 600 other evidence custodians – join the Evidence Management Community Forum on Facebook.