Even as recent as ten years ago, the whole process of evidence collection could be boiled down to a one-time incident. Evidence collection would happen when an officer wrote her assessment of a situation into a police report. She would add in certain other variables such as witness information. A records clerk would then input that report into the records management system. Everything was paper driven, primarily made up of paper forms and written narratives.
As the world turned toward more digital processes, an urgent need arose for evidence management to become digital as well.
How has evidence management evolved with the digital age?
The main component of effective digital evidence management is that it gives the officer or criminal investigator an easy way to see everything going on in one place. Just as telecommunicators and first responders need a way to cut through information overload and view all the necessary, relevant information they need to respond effectively and efficiently to a crisis, the same thing rings true during a criminal investigation.
When law enforcement investigates a shooting or robbery, the investigator will want to be able to see all available camera footage or determine if there was a gunshot detection alert triggered. If a burglary or home invasion took place, an officer would want to be able to see the cars being driven in and out of a neighborhood during the time period leading up to and after the event. A digital evidence management solution accounts for those kinds of variables and pulls in information for investigative purposes instead of just for real-time analysis.
Digital evidence management makes it easy
With the influx of data sources from which law enforcement personnel can pull for investigative purposes, managing digital evidence can quickly become like trying to tame the Wild West. An effective digital evidence management system will provide agencies three big value adds. They are:
- Ability to collate and organize
Overtime, video footage started being introduced as evidence, from patrol car dashcams to body worn cameras, and now to also include cell phone footage, city-owned cameras, privately owned cameras at a bank or a gas station and more. The number of new forms of media that evidence now takes can easily overwhelm an agency. Digital evidence management tools collate and organize the evidence into one, easily viewable single pane of glass for criminal investigators to sort through efficiently.
- Easy analysis
The overwhelming amount of data sources law enforcement has at their availability can make finding the necessary piece of evidence more difficult. A streamlined digital evidence management solution allows for crime investigators to go directly to the piece of video evidence they would need, whether it’s for a shooting or robbery. A faster analysis of the correct piece of evidence can help investigators close cases faster and more effectively.
- Quick and secure data sharing
Law enforcement often needs to share video evidence with the criminal justice system, usually sharing multiple video feeds from multiple cameras. However, many video systems use a proprietary Codec, the format the footage is saved in. If an agency has the camera’s system, it can view the footage really easily. However, the DA’s office or prosecutor’s office also needs that same player to view the video footage. That means an officer trying to share the footage with the DA would not only have to send the file of the actual footage but also the correct player to view that footage. If an officer is sending camera feeds from four different sources, that might be four different players that the DA’s office now needs to access . With digital evidence management, the DA’s office can have its own login to quickly and securely view the footage, without needing extra steps or extra software tools.
Next frontier for digital evidence management
Digital evidence management is for investigators to use after something has happened. Whether it’s the next day, the next week or the next months, investigators can use a streamlined digital evidence management tool to collate and share information from multiple data sources to close cases quicker and more accurately. The ability to streamline easily, analyze quickly and securely share are the three major components of a standout digital evidence management solution. The multitude of evidence sources, like city-owned cameras, license plate readers, gunshot detection systems and CAD and RMS data, can present challenges to agencies if they do not have the proper tools in place to manage the data. It is time that agencies prioritize the next frontier of evidence management.