By Shawn Henderson
Open Secrets and Locked Doors
You don’t have to look far to find horribly discouraging news about botched evidence handling and poor evidence management. When critical evidence gets lost or is mishandled or improperly stored, justice loses. As evidence managers, we operate behind closed doors. No one sees the work that we do, or even notices until something goes wrong.
In many agencies across the country, the condition of evidence operations is an open secret; especially to those of us behind the locked doors of the evidence vault. We see the problems and we can forecast the potential catastrophes in front of us. Sometimes, it’s tough to know where to even begin.
The Two Keys
Just like reading a book, a great place to start is at the beginning. When you go home tonight at the end of your shift, chances are you’ll pull out your keys to unlock the front door. Without the right keys, you’re going to be standing on the porch for a while until someone lets you in. It’s the same first step that leads to successful evidence management; you have to have the right keys to open the door.
The two keys to successful evidence management are essential to effective, efficient and sustainable evidence management operations. The first key on your keychain of custody is the right training. Proper evidence management training will get you in the front door and set the foundation for success. Key number two is the right technology. The first key gets you in the front door, but the right technology is the key to solving the core problems we face as evidence managers. It’s the key to the vault.
The Right Evidence Management Training
The right training for evidence managers looks different today than it did thirty years ago. Selecting a training class for your evidence managers should be based on your needs as an agency, and taught from a perspective that addresses the current climate of evidence management. The right training for evidence managers should provide them with a baseline of knowledge and the skills required for effective, efficient and sustainable evidence management.
That knowledge baseline should cover all the basic principles of evidence management, and provide guidance on each of the processes required to perform our roles, but it shouldn’t stop there. The right training for evidence managers also has to include discussions about the things that impact us today, like digital evidence and technology integration. Truly transformative evidence management training also equips evidence managers with the tools to evaluate and improve their own operations, and to solve the very real problems and issues we face as an industry.
The learning curve for evidence managers is one of the steepest in law enforcement. Understanding the fundamental responsibilities of an evidence custodian requires wide and deep knowledge in multiple skill areas and disciplines. Great evidence management training isn’t just a crash course on running a warehouse, it’s a deep dive into best practices and standards that cover everything from collection through disposition.
The Right Technology
Sleek lines, incredible design and the best materials are great pieces to build a Ferrari. But without that sand-casted 12 cylinder engine, a Ferrari is just a gorgeous pile of wasted style and carbon fiber. The right technology is the engine, or to be consistent; the right technology is the key to cranking that engine, which will get you where you need to go as an agency.
Technology for technology’s sake isn’t a solution. You have to pair the right technology with your needs for evidence management. Most law enforcement technology solutions fail to meet the needs of evidence management, most are designed to meet a different need and a different purpose, like a Records Management System. A lot of times, agencies deploy and RMS and hammer and force the system to solve evidence management issues at the same price. The price you actually pay is usually sub-standard evidence management technology.
An Evidence Management System is the right tool for equipping law enforcement agencies to appropriately manage their evidence. It’s not enough to create a database and slap labels on packages, true evidence management systems facilitate the whole evidence process, integrated into one cohesive solution that meets the needs of all of the stakeholders in the process.
True evidence management technology provides users with insight and analysis, hard data about the state and status of their evidence operations. When searching for an evidence management technology solution to equip your agency for sustainability, do the research to ensure that you’re meeting your agency’s evidence management technology needs. A good place to start your search is located in our Standards and Best Practices Guide online. It’s a great tool for starting your shopping list, or for evaluating your current technology system.
Finding the Right Place
Of course, we’re biased, but at the Evidence Management Institute, we believe we can deliver the first key to your success through one of our Evidence Management Professional Certification classes. Our classes are scheduled from coast to coast and located in multiple regions to bring our training to you.
We add classes continually and will be finalizing our 2020 schedule in November for all classes currently planned for the next year. Check the website regularly, or sign up for our mailing list to stay informed of training classes near you, or to inquire about hosting one of our classes.
Where do you find that second key? EMI can point you in the right direction in two different ways. Part of our curriculum involves a deep dive into best practices for evidence management automation, where you can gain some insight and direction on finding the keys to technology success for your agency. We also offer technology integration consulting services to help you find a solution that meets your unique needs.