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Adapting To New Evidence Management Protocols

February 13, 2020

Evidence Units within law enforcement agencies would benefit from reviewing their current organizational policies – as related to evidence management – in order to reveal ineffective evidence tracking practices and procedures. By doing so, new solutions can be implemented to safeguard the integrity of the evidence for its entire lifecycle. 

In the current evidence management environment – which includes the dramatic rise in digital evidence – sustainable evidence operations benefit by using digital tracking software that will increase operational efficiency and effectiveness. 

digital evidence tracking

To gauge the effectiveness of your evidence management unit, ask yourself a simple question. Can you find any given piece of evidence in under 5 minutes? If you can’t, it’s time to implement a digital tracking software system; one that will provide essential information in real-time.

As one client wrote, “This technology has streamlined the process of booking property and allowed us to become more efficient in our daily work. The ability to tailor the system to our individual needs and the quick response of Tracker Products’ technical support are key advantages versus other systems we researched.”

Shawn Henderson – the Executive Director of the Evidence Management Institute – remembered his days working as an officer in the evidence unit of the Carrollton Police Department… 

“After having done the first evidence inventory, in the 50-year history of the agency, I chose to implement Tracker Products technology solutions, and retrain our agency with respect to evidence management. I can’t say that everyone was happy about making changes, but they understood what we were working towards and why it was important.”

RELATED: THE EVIDENCE VAULT THAT TIME FORGOT 

Shawn continued, “When we made the change there was a hard start date. Once we got the Tracker Products technology up and running – which moved us from paper to digital – our law enforcement agency had thorough training on the new system. 

In addition to learning how to use the Tracker Software, they were also trained on appropriate packaging, submission, and documentation practices. Everyone knew that in order to submit evidence, they had to go through the training program. Ultimately, it would help them do their job more efficiently and effectively. 

But, there was a lot of pushback because it did require the officers to take ownership of the evidence they submitted. We were going to hold them accountable for mistakes and submission errors. We weren’t going to accept evidence that wasn’t appropriately packaged and labeled. 

Previously,  officers would fill out a piece of paper, place evidence into an open plastic box, put it inside the evidence locker, and close the door. At that time, our evidence custodians would take the items out, package the items, label the cases and the items, and then a clerk would enter them into the computer. 

With Tracker Products, the process allowed the officers to document the evidence directly into the software at the beginning, bypassing the ineffective and time-consuming paper trail. They packaged the evidence, they labeled the evidence and they put those packaged, labeled and sealed containers inside the evidence locker for the evidence custodian to inspect, take into custody, and store them. 

evidence tracking system

That was a paradigm shift. So we had to change the culture, our practices, and our processes, in order to be aligned with the best practices of evidence management. And, honestly, I don’t remember giving anyone any options to not comply. 

In law enforcement, there’s always a tendency to avoid increased responsibilities – for patrol or for investigators – so we expected some balking. Fortunately, we had an agency where once you explained the reason for it, and the methodology behind the new tasks and processes they were understanding and supportive of it.”

RELATED: THE UNTRAINED EVIDENCE CLERK AND A FAULTY TRACKING SYSTEM

Law Enforcement agencies should operate in accordance with industry and statutory standards, and include a consistent balance of evidence intake and disposition. An advanced evidence tracking system will simplify, streamline, and secure physical and digital evidence management from collection to disposition. Some items will stay for weeks, others years, some forever; but each item stored in your property room has the same essential life cycle. 

  1. COLLECTION AND SUBMISSION

With Tracker Products, evidence logging can begin from the field or in the evidence submission area. We know packaging is critical – and that’s why our system prints a clear label with all necessary information – no scribbled writing, no extra paperwork.

  1. INTAKE AND STORAGE

With Tracker Products, the intake process can be as simple as inspecting the package and two or three scans later, it’s ready for storage. It’s just that simple. Every action is securely recorded maintaining an unbroken, unimpeachable chain of custody. Need to find that item in an instant? Yes, our system makes that simple, as well!

  1. TRANSFER

Evidence needs to go to the lab for analysis or to court for trial. You can transfer items digitally and capture signatures or add attachments in the system. If you’re working with outside agencies or entities, you still have the flexibility to print release or transfer documentation from the system.

  1. DISPOSAL

Without having to check the item’s history, our software will send the submitting officer a retention review request to approve the disposal of the item, if appropriate, or request to keep the item for a specified period of time before the next review. There are safeguards in place to prevent evidence from being held unnecessarily.  

How important is Auto-Disposition? One client wrote – “By implementing Tracker, we have been able to get rid of so much evidence that we stopped plans for a new storage facility for the property and evidence department.”

Tracker Product’s SAFE evidence tracking software is more than just barcodes and inventory control, it’s an end-to-end chain of custody software for physical and digital evidence, resolving each of the critical issues facing evidence management today. To learn more about Tracker Products, CLICK HERE.

Or, if you’re interested in Evidence Management Training Classes from our sister company, VISIT EMI HERE.