Bowling Green (KY) Police Department – 5 Year Evidence Room Clean Up Process – Part 2
March 8, 2021
In this webinar, Ben Townsend, the Founder and CEO of Tracker Products, interviewed David Bragg, of the Bowling Green (KY) Police Department, to learn more about his five year evidence room clean-up efforts.
When the evidence data was migrated from their old RMS system, to the new Tracker Software, David did some benchmark testing.
He said, “I just walked through for a few weeks, pulling items, and seeing if the data matched up. It all matched up. Essentially there were zero hiccups during the migration of it. When we went to the new system, it was a new world. No more, a hundred and signature checkouts, for each item at that point.
The emphasis shifted from intaking of evidence into permanent storage, to managing what you already have and trying to get rid of it… purging and disposition.”
Ben said, “Would you even have an estimate – prior to the implementation of the new system – how much time in the day was spent on the intake and getting it on the shelf process versus what it is today?”
David said, “We’re averaging probably 700 – 750 items per month. In 2012, it was a little nauseating to come in and think, I‘ve got to spend three quarters of my day – or all morning at least – intaking this stuff. I had to go through all these keystrokes, doing manual typing and locating it to a shelf. Initially, I thought, I’m not sure I want to do this [job]. Even though I was glad to have a challenge, I thought, this is too much. This is an antique way of doing inventory management.”
Ben said, “I cannot emphasize enough… you have got to look at how much time you’re spending on doing all of your tasks in a given day. I think three quarters of your day has to be consumed by management of the evidence: inventories, getting it out the door; things like that.
If you’re spending 75 to 80% of your day, just getting it in the door, you will not have any time to get it out the door. So, look at whatever it is that shifts-the-tables to get intake significantly faster. It’s gotta be minutes in a day. It can’t be hours.”
David said, “And that’s where we were at the time, until we made some changes. There are things you need to do to turn your evidence room around: First of all, you’ve gotta have the support of the department.
I’ll go back to what Shawn Henderson said, you can lead without authority. There are a lot of things you could do to influence how things are run in your evidence room. And that’s what we were doing. But, we had a supportive department too; the chief was on board with this from the start.
So, the two things that rise to the top are… If you don’t have a good evidence management system – whether you’re using paper or some inadequate module to an RMS system – you’ve gotta reevaluate. And, secondly… whoever’s working in your evidence room has to be organized. They have to like what they’re doing. Otherwise, you get two strikes against you already.”
Ben said, “I want to show off a couple of pictures here. High density shelving… when did you install that?”
David said, “That was there. We were in a modern facility, it’s just that we had some old ways of doing business. Now we have an off-site storage facility, which handles our bulk. It was really a mess.”
Ben said, “Just showing off some other pictures in your evidence room…”
David said, “That’s a gun room. You have to key swipe to get into this. So, it leaves an audit trail of who enters the gun room or the drug room. We also have an intake area, where the officers come in and process our evidence and prep it for packaging, and deposit them into pass-through, temporary lockers. There’s also a couple of workstations where officers can start entering their data of what has been seized. They can actually do that from their cars too; from their mobile data computers. So, they can start that process [in the field].”
Ben said, “The thing that stands out to me, when I see some of these pictures – like you just elaborated on a minute ago – is, you had a very modern facility. I mean, when you look at those temporary lockers, those are nice looking lockers. It’s a nice processing area.
In the end, getting this stuff cleaned up is not any one thing. It’s not just evidence management software. It’s not just getting lockers. That’s what our Total Evidence Management solution is all about; this is part of a much bigger package. And you’ve got to look at all these different things, because if any one piece is out of place, it can really hamper the evidence management process.
And, I would argue that not having a good evidence management system is the worst thing to be out of place, because you can make up a lot of ground by having a good evidence management system. So, I think you’d mentioned this was a construction project you guys were working on…”
David said, “Yeah, on our grounds here, we had an empty lot, so we’re building a new bulk storage facility to handle our large power tools and so forth. It’s a two-story facility with about 10 car bays.
On the second level, we’re going to archive all of our long-term storage. Our murder cases, our long-term retention of DNA. That construction project will be done here in probably about a month. That will free up some space at our headquarters.
So, we’re getting ready to move probably 7,000 items – potentially bulk items and archive items of murder evidence and DNA retention. I’m kind of dreading moving 7,000 items.”
Ben added, “It’s not just picking up a box and moving it. You’re going into the software and accounting for the fact that it’s leaving the main facility and going to the other one.”
David said, “And scanning every one of the items. When Tracker started looking at convenience containers, I was initially against it. And then, I changed my mind. In prepping for this move – we’re talking about all this archive evidence, scanning it into a convenience container, inventorying it, sealing that container up – now, when we get ready to move, the only thing I have to do is scan that one container, and then scan it to the new location.
In the future, when it comes time to inventory, you just scan that container – assuming the seal hasn’t been broken – to know what’s in it. So, when the day comes that we move; instead of scanning 7,000 items to move, I’m just going to probably do a few hundred and that’s it. Everything goes with it.”
Ben said, “So, you’ve cleaned up. I can see looking at your aisles, it’s clean. You’re using statistics. You’re spending more time doing disposition than you are entry. Those are all really awesome things, but you’re not done there. You’re doing more. What are you doing now to really ratchet disposition, even more than what it is?”
Dave said, “Those data and statistics graphs and charts were used by our chief to help sell the project for bulk construction. So, if you’ve got the data, use it to your advantage. If you see that trend chart [above], we had a little dip there. That dip is attributed to not storing body cameras here now in our evidence room. That trend is still continuing. You’ve got to have room. Usually you don’t have a storage space problem. You usually have a purging problem.
But, we did have a storage space problem for our bulk facility. So, these charts and graphs were used to help sell the notion to our local commission to build this $1.2 million facility.”
Ben added, “There’s no way you knock on the door asking for $1.2 million without having anything to back it up; some solid statistics about why you’re trying to do what you’re doing.”
David said, “So, where are we right now? Our time management – or human resource management – the emphasis still focused on dispositions and not intake. That occurred ever since we ditched our old evidence management system. And it’s freeing us up.
We’ve developed packaging manuals to help bring in packaging compliance and make sure everything’s done the way it needs to be done. And it’s consistent.
We still need to work on our disposition policy. We were working on that, and it was probably getting ready to go through some approval process, but the COVID-19 hit and it kind of sidelined some things. When we get through this COVID-19 situation, it’ll be back on the table.
Basically, our disposition policy is going to take a look at our nonviolent crimes: burglaries, criminal mischief, drug cases, and so forth. And, we’re gonna implement a policy similar to this… If you have evidence in a case, in which there is a suspect, but no action has been taken within three years of the offense date… kill the case, kill the evidence.
So, that’s gonna automatically get rid of some evidence that we don’t have to hold it in perpetuity like we used to. We’re working with the courts. The prosecutor’s offices are now preparing disposition orders in advance. When a defendant pleads guilty, on the day of sentencing, they’ll have those orders prepared and the clerk’s office will forward them back to us.
And, one of the [other] things I’m excited about… we have been sending out yearly officer disposition sheets, hard copy. This is what you have in evidence. Take a look at it, review it, tell me what we can get rid of and what we need to keep. So, we’re gonna look at auto disposition and we were ready to pull the trigger on that.
I think that’s going to free up a lot of officer’s time. I kind of informally polled some officers…. Would you rather get 50 pages of evidence once a year, review it, and make a decision whether it needs to stay or go, or would you rather have it trickle in? I don’t think anybody said, I’d rather get the 50 pages of evidence. So, we’re looking at auto disposition. I expect that probably will be implemented sometime this calendar year when we get through this pandemic crisis.”
Ben said, “I’m not turning this into a demo of our software, but it does need to be stated that what he’s talking about is a feature within our product where it’ll send out email notifications to an officer that an item is up for review. So, instead of David preparing the documents and sending it out in bulk, like what he was doing now, he’s using the technology and the system to trickle these notifications out in an automated way.
David, I do a couple of questions that have come in. If you’re ready to answer a few, somebody asked… Can you destroy firearms in Kentucky? Do you guys do your own firearms?”
David said, “No. There is a state law in Kentucky that you cannot destroy firearms. They have to go to a central repository and the repository is actually run by the Kentucky State Police. About once a quarter, that repository has an auction for licensed firearm dealers. Those firearms get sold back out. The money that’s generated, goes into a fund, that helps to primarily buy body armor for police agencies, but also some law enforcement equipment.”
Ben said, “I want to show you some of the statistics David was talking about earlier. In blue, you can see incoming items – they’ve had just a little under 700 items in a couple of months and they’ve gotten as high as about 950. So, you can see they’re averaging 800/850 items in a given month. In red, this is what their five-year disposition looks like…
So, in 2019, they got rid of 2000 more items than what they brought in. And, that was without having that auto disposition feature in place. So, this is where he’s really trying to kick that into high gear.”
David said, “We’re creeping back up, though. We are increasingly taking in more evidence over the years. Using the data from our evidence management system, in the last eight years we’ve been averaging seven and a half percent increase in evidence collected each year. So, we’re going to have to tackle dispositions even more than we are now. That’s where auto disposition is gonna help… combined with those court orders that are being prepared by their prosecutor’s office at the time of final sentencing of the defendants.”
Ben said, “Let’s start imagining a few years down the road…. If you implement auto-disposition, and you continue to get support from your courts, what do you think your inventory is going to look like?”
David said, “I hope that it drastically drops. Here’s what consumes a lot of our inventory right now… .media files, crime scene photos, audio and video recorded interviews. That’s probably not far from 50% of our intake. Right now, we’re not storing those interviews or photos virtually on the cloud. They’re burned to a CD or DVD and logged into evidence. If we can get those stored on the cloud, then my inventory could probably potentially drop by 50%.”
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Ben said, “Somebody’s asking, How many evidence staff do you have including yourself?”
David said, “Two. Two’s adequate.”
Ben said, “And for what you’re bringing in… you’re doing amazing work with two people. Some people would say this can’t all be done with two people. When you look at what your intake looks like… but, that’s what I’ve liked about David; he’s a very organized person.
I guess the last thing I want to say is you cannot do this stuff overnight, but you can do that eHealth Check. You can get a game plan in place and say, We’re going to start making movement in that direction.
Just keep in mind, it takes a while. I mean, David’s been at this for eight years, to get to where he’s at right now. He didn’t walk in on day one and it looked like it did.
David, are there any last comments you want to make?”
David said, “If you’ve got hundreds or thousands of items coming in, you’ve got to look at your evidence management system. So, use that data. I’m not endorsing any particular product…”
Ben laughed and said, “We did a really good job of staying away from endorsements today… You can go ahead and endorse us. This is a Tracker Products event. David is endorsing Tracker Products!”
David said, “Well, I did test your product for probably two or three months…”
Ben said, “David spent as much time investigating us as anybody. David, I’m going to let you go here today; I really appreciate your time. You’ve been a fantastic guest. I know everybody appreciates all your feedback!”
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