A 360º Total Evidence Management Solution
May 19, 2022
When Tracker Products and the Evidence Management Institute (EMI) teamed up to launch the Evidence Management Community Forum on Facebook – at the beginning of the pandemic – our goal was to bring the evidence management community together and provide a safe haven to promote connection and open communication.
We hoped to create a space where evidence management personnel, and law-enforcement folks in general, could come together to ask questions, offer solutions, and feel sincerely valued for their role in upholding the justice process.
Occasionally, we will promote Ads on the forum, but only if they are relevant to the conversation. Usually, the Ads are promoting FREE resources, like webinars, online or in-person training, or the latest blogs.
We also agreed that we wouldn’t stifle conversations that recommended our competitor’s products or services. In fact, we encourage members to compare evidence management software systems, and do deep-dives into the benefits of the evidence management training classes, consulting, and auditing services they’re considering.
Never in a million years did we think this forum would balloon to a group of nearly 800 members in less than 24 months. But balloon it did.
At first, we offered some basic suggestions to begin the conversations. Topics could include, but weren’t limited to: standards and best practices, technology developments, and evidence management challenges, solutions, and success stories.
These relatively stale (albeit necessary) topics gradually developed into more specific, nuanced, and sometimes difficult conversations. In checking the forum the day before writing this, we found the following questions:
- What does your property destruction/disposal policy look like? What do you do with guns? Drugs? Other stuff? Is there anything you’re allowed to just toss in the garbage?
- If I donate my hair to Locks of Love and the recipient commits a crime, will my DNA at the crime scene incriminate me?
- What should we do with cell phones in child pornography cases? Do you factory reset them or have a no return practice?
While the questions were answered by seasoned evidence managers, it was the consistent theme of the comments – throughout the forum’s 2-year history – that got our attention. People were saying things like:
- This is a new position for me. I have no experience with evidence management. The policies are a tad outdated, and they don’t offer very much in terms of guidance.
- We never had a policy for destroying evidence. It was always up to me [to decide] when evidence was destroyed.
- What’s your policy for tracking case disposition / when evidence can be returned or destroyed? What’s the workflow? I’m too new. Not even sure how to check on court progress.
- I took over last year in May and it was AWFUL. I’m the only one doing intake and destruction. There are so many old cases from the 90s and early 2000s [evidence we don’t need]. It’s just crazy.
- I’m just a dumb beat cop with additional duty as the department evidence and property manager. I’m working with what I inherited about a year ago.
What we realized over time was that the seasoned evidence management community was incredibly responsive and encouraging, but the buck stopped with answers to specific questions. While we appreciated the fact that the forum was, and still is, a great platform for the community, it is, for the most part, reactive.
For new and untrained evidence custodians, there was a serious lack of proactive resources. By resources, we certainly mean information and education, but they also lacked the financial resources to get what they needed in order to do their jobs.
That was a lightbulb moment for us. We needed to do more. And, we needed to do it for free.
“AS A PARTNERSHIP WITH A SHARED VISION, TRACKER AND EMI HAVE WORKED TOGETHER TO CREATE A PARADIGM SHIFT IN EVIDENCE MANAGEMENT. THEIR 360º TOTAL EVIDENCE MANAGEMENT SOLUTION CAN HELP YOUR AGENCY WITH EVERY ASPECT OF YOUR OPERATIONS.”
Thus began Tracker’s journey of evolving from “only” offering evidence management software to partnering with EMI in order to develop a 360º Total Evidence Management Solution.
Obviously, our respective companies still have to keep the lights on. So yes, Tracker would love to be your evidence management software provider. And EMI would appreciate you hiring them for consultations, audits, and inventory services. But, we want to earn your trust and eventually (we hope) earn your business.
What’s our game plan? To become an ever-evolving, powerful resource for information and education, and providers of state-of-the-art human and digital solutions.
Let’s start with the FREE stuff. We suggest that you cycle through these resources in the order in which they’re listed – especially if you’re new to the evidence management world.
- The Evidence Management Community Forum – A FB page with nearly 800 evidence management members who discuss everything in the realm of evidence management. Topics include, but are not limited to, standards and best practices, the benefits of technology for evidence management, and evidence management challenges, solutions, and success stories.
- The E-Health Check – a FREE assessment designed to provide clients with a snapshot of their operations compared to key performance indicators for sustainable evidence operations.
- The Evidence Management Comparison Worksheet – This free downloadable spreadsheet is pre-populated with 49 factors to consider. You have the ability to rank the importance of each factor and add additional fields for consideration
- FREE Evidence Management Training Videos – This online training includes 8 hours of evidence management training, an online exam, and a completion certificate.
- “The Evidence Show” – In each episode, EMI discusses the unique issues that impact evidence managers, custodians, and the law enforcement community in general. Most episodes include special guests who are experts on a variety of topics.
- A Series of Tracker Webinars – Live or recorded, they are loaded with: Virtual Evidence Unit Tours, Evidence Management Best Practices, Tips for Getting the Tools You Need to Improve Operations, and much more!
- Weekly Articles – Topics include, but are not limited to: Best Practices for Audits, Inventories, Packaging, Digital Evidence Storage, Disposition, etc.
- Tracker’s Resources – Blogs, Portfolio, Wiki Page, Evidence Management Software Comparison Tools, and SO much more.
- FREE TEMS Audit – Every new Tracker Products client, who purchases two or more Concurrent Access Licenses (CALs) will receive a free audit. The audit begins with the online E-Health Check. Based on the results of the EHealth Check, audits may include: A policy and procedure review, facility inspection, and an organization, packaging, and storage review.
- Dedicated Support and Implementation Staff – We know change can be scary. You can feel SAFE knowing that every Tracker Client has FREE and unlimited access to a highly acclaimed team of support and implementation experts.
- EMI’s Resources – Standards and Best Practices, Evidence Related Links, and Blogs that are LOADED with information.
- Daily Social Media Posts – Both Tracker and EMI post information-rich content to several SM platforms every single day. There, you will find: recorded webinars, infographics, original articles, training videos, standards and best practices, testimonials, and much more.
- NEW! FREE – In-Person, 2-Day Evidence Management Training and Certification Classes – Nationwide!
***Be sure to consistently check back on these resources as they are constantly evolving.
Why Paper Evidence Management Should be a Crime
Another thing we noticed as we monitored the forum was the mind-bending amount of evidence management units that still rely on (audible gasp!) log books, index cards, and all things paper.
Paper vs. Digital Evidence Management Systems
There are countless reasons why that’s a bad idea, but we’ll stick with the Reader’s Digest version (full article below). Even if you don’t go with our software, we would like for you to be aware of some of the benefits of going digital. Of course, different evidence management software providers have varying features and benefits, so we can only speak to ours.
What can Tracker’s digital evidence management system do that pen and paper can’t?
- Eliminate illegible handwriting.
- Reduce input errors.
- Eliminate duplication efforts.
- Intuitive platform = ease-of use
- Each user is given a unique sign-in code, so you know who entered what and when.
- Documentation can begin in the field from a cell phone or tablet.
- Officers cannot submit evidence until all of the required fields have been filled in.
- Generates a detailed information label including a barcode.
- Automated workflow assigns tasks to individuals who need to take action.
- Unalterable chain of custody. New data can be added, but nothing can be deleted.
- Data is encrypted and protected on-site and/or in the cloud.
- Searches only take a few clicks.
- The software is customizable.
- You can collect data and generate reports that will help you get additional resources.
- Less chance of lost or stolen property.
- Audits and Inventories are much easier and faster.
- Chain of custody is more detailed and accurate.
- Eliminates most paper (property cards, reports, release forms, etc), which saves you time and space.
- Much easier to manage cases.
- Automatically sends case-specific contacts real-time updates.
- Reduces liability.
- Better and faster organization in the property room.
- Auto-disposition will increase your annual disposals and create more space.
If you’re sold on the idea of upgrading to a digital evidence management system, but you can’t get buy-in from those in leadership positions, we strongly suggest that you read this article. It’s about a client who used data as a means to convince the board of commissioners to approve a two-story, 10-car-bay, bulk-storage facility on their headquarters site.
There is ALWAYS a way for you to get what you need for your evidence unit, but you can’t just ask. You have to show. If you want to upgrade to a digital evidence management system, do your research. Show how it can help increase productivity, improve the chain of custody, and increase your disposition rates. If disposition rates improve, your unit won’t have to build that new, expensive storage facility that’s been on the table.
Refuse to Use an RMS
An equally frustrating topic for evidence custodians is using an RMS to try and manage evidence. Quality evidence management systems (which a RMS is NOT) integrate and automate the full spectrum of physical and digital evidence management processes, from submission, documentation, and labeling at intake through final approval and recording of disposition.
RMS vendors will even say, “We don’t do evidence. That’s not our core competency. And, we’re not going to make that a core competency.” The basic package of the RMS system will lack critical data components when you’re collecting information on guns, drugs, and money; unless they allow you to customize their product to a great degree. But, many of them don’t.But, if they do, you have to figure out what all the relevant data collection fields should be.
Believe it or not, there are RMS systems out there that will allow you to generate barcode labels, but they have no scanning capabilities. That is an insane concept… a software product that generates a barcode that means nothing? Barcodes are essential for processing large amounts of evidence. You use that information to move evidence in and out with accuracy.
RMS systems also don’t have mobile capabilities. RMS certainly do not have iOS and Android mobile apps for evidence entry. Historically, older RMS systems have been on-premise applications. And, in some cases, there may be multiple days after the evidence is collected before it’s submitted to headquarters.
The reason mobile capabilities are so important is because we believe that you should be entering information about the evidence – including pictures about evidence – before you even touch the evidence. We want that record of collection. We want that chain of custody to begin the moment you lay your eyes on the evidence. So, having mobile apps that allow you to enter evidence out in the field is critical.
Additionally, most RMS systems do not have data reporting capabilities. So, you won’t know the answers to: How much evidence do you have? How many items have you disposed of in the last year or three years? What is your intake versus your outgo? How much drug evidence do you have? What percentage of the drug evidence was incinerated?
One of the most important components that your RMS system is not going to have is Tasking; being able to assign evidence-related tasks to approved members in the chain-of-custody team. My guess is that a basic RMS system is going to allow you to generate paper-based reports, but never anything in real-time, from anywhere in the world.
How you communicate with people about evidence is paramount in an evidence management system. You should be communicating electronically, so that when something does go wrong, or doubt is introduced, you can deal with it in real-time.
Finally, RMS systems don’t even begin to address the technical process of getting rid of evidence. When you don’t have any sort of automated process in place, you have a disaster waiting to happen. Tracker’s software addresses the process of bringing officers into the disposition process by automating evidence disposal via tasks. With auto-disposition, you will save two things that most evidence custodians lack: Time and Space.
Laser-Focused + Multi-Talented = A 360º Total Evidence Management Solution
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes two companies, with very different solutions, to create a 360º Total Evidence Management Solution (TEMS).
Besides providing great FREE resources, Tracker Products focuses on one thing and one thing only, our software solution. We are constantly improving, or adding features to, our SAFE Evidence Management Software, and we take our commitment to being the best evidence management software provider very seriously.
We are especially proud of our SAFE App, which puts the full power of evidence management into the hands of your agency users. We are the only vendor that has a physical and digital evidence ‘loader’ for your iPhone or Android device. Which means, your officers can add real-time crime scene documentation and do remote evidence entry from the field.
Not only can officers in the field enter evidence from their phone or tablet, custodians can perform audits, inventories, and inspections using the app. And, all assigned chain-of-custody users are updated in real-time no matter where they are. So, if your Chief needs information about a certain case, he or she can simply double-tap the SAFE app, and any information they need is just a couple of clicks away.
Clearly, we are passionate about our software, but enough about us. Let’s talk about the multi-dimensional value that EMI brings to the table.
If you look at the FREE content at the beginning of this article, you may notice that about 50% of it is generated by EMI. Shawn Henderson, in particular, is an evidence management information-generating machine.
- The E-Health Check was designed by him.
- The FREE Evidence Management Training Videos were written, produced, and published by Shawn.
- “The Evidence Show,” was conceived, developed, and consistently aired by him.
- A Series of Tracker Webinars included him as a regular guest on a multitude of topics.
- The EMI Standards and Best Practices were developed exclusively by Shawn.
And the NEW! FREE – 2 Day Evidence Management Training and Certification Classes are his masterpiece. He designed and developed ALL of the class material. Check out the overview…
- The curriculum is driven by our mission to elevate the industry and ensure the integrity of evidence for all stakeholders in the justice system.
- Designed around EMI Evidence Management Standards and Best Practices to provide attendees with a blueprint to transfer class knowledge into sustainable and efficient operations.
- A leading-edge, current, relevant curriculum that facilitates interactive class participation and engages the learner with activities that are directly applicable to their agency’s operation
- EMI training focuses on an integrated, systematic approach to evidence management.
- EMI training fills existing knowledge gaps in the area of digital evidence management and teaches attendees how to incorporate emerging and existing technology into evidence operations.
- Completion of the two-day EMI Evidence Management Professional Certification class affords attendees the option to test and obtain EMI Evidence Management Professional Certification immediately upon completion of the training course.
- Attendees will leave the class with a specific toolbox of reference materials, resources, and solutions to evaluate and improve their operations.
Did we mention that all of those resources are FREE?
Clearly, Shawn has established himself as THE go-to guy for professional, comprehensive evidence management expertise. But, you may be asking yourself, How does EMI make money?
Shawn and his team get personal.
Information is great, but it’s also designed for the masses. As you know, every evidence management unit is unique, and they face their own series of challenges. Sometimes, these departments are so overwhelmed by problems that they either don’t know where to start, or they lack the skill or personnel they need to make changes.
That’s when they bring in EMI
As an integral part of the mission of the Evidence Management Institute, they offer a comprehensive set of services to help agencies achieve sustainable, efficient, and effective evidence management operations.
They approach evidence management consulting as a systematic collaborative process, building stable solutions that address the unique needs of individual operations. They work with each client to draft a blueprint solution designed around their specific needs and challenges.
Because time is your most valuable commodity, almost all of the data collection and reporting can be completed online through their client portal. Then they develop a deep understanding of your processes, challenges, and needs from the EMI evidence management audit.
The scope and depth of the services they offer are as varied and unique as the agencies they serve. From their FREE online Evidence HealthCheck tool to a Comprehensive Audit of Processes and Systems (CAPS) consulting, they partner with you to secure the chain of custody for your evidence management operations.
- CAPS Consulting (Comprehensive Audit of Processes and Systems)
- Exploratory Consultation
- Disaster Mitigation
- Inventory Services
- Policy and Procedure Review and Development
- Solution-Specific Consulting
Tracker Products and The Evidence Management Institute want to contribute to your ongoing education through… a series of FREE online evidence management training classes. Watch and comment on the Tracker Products webinars here. Check out The Evidence Show! And to get in on the discussion, with nearly 800 evidence custodians – join the Evidence Management Community Forum on Facebook.