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Evidence Management Software Systems – Price vs. Value

May 9, 2024

In modern law enforcement and investigative practices, effective evidence management, both digital and physical, is paramount. Evidence Management Software (EMS) provides a comprehensive solution for law enforcement agencies, forensic laboratories, legal firms, and other organizations tasked with handling and storing evidence. However, in the realm of EMS, there exists a constant tension between the initial price of implementation and the long-term value they offer.

We often convince ourselves, post-purchase, that we negotiated a good deal on the product or service that fit within our given budget. No one wants to admit they purchased a sub-par product or paid for horrible service. Yet, in this industry, we consciously make these decisions and work backward through the process when purchasing evidence management systems.

Shouldn’t we first find quality evidence management software and then equate its value once we’ve determined that it is of superior quality and exceeds our needs? The Value of a product is different for every individual. Warren Buffet is often quoted as saying, “Price is what you pay, Value is what you get.”

If you could put a value on evidence management software that saved you tremendous time and effort and automated a majority of your tasks that require an inordinate amount of time, you would probably place the value extremely high. On the other hand, your supervisor or the decision makers may place a very low value on the evidence management software simply because it does not save them any time as they do not or will not use the system at all. Good leaders understand Value, while others shop on Price.

Understanding Evidence Management Software Systems

 

EMS encompasses a range of software solutions designed to streamline the process of managing both digital and physical evidence. These systems offer functionalities such as:

  1. Evidence Intake: Capturing and logging both digital evidence, such as videos, images, and documents, and physical evidence, such as firearms, drugs, and biological samples, into a centralized system.
  2. Chain of Custody Management: Tracking the movement and handling of evidence throughout its lifecycle, ensuring accountability and maintaining the integrity of the chain of custody.
  3. Storage and Organization: Safely storing evidence in a secure and organized manner, with features for categorization, tagging, and indexing to facilitate easy retrieval.
  4. Access Control and Security: Implementing robust security measures to protect the confidentiality and integrity of evidence, including access controls, encryption, and audit trails.
  5. Collaboration and Analysis: Facilitating collaboration among investigators, analysts, and legal professionals, as well as providing tools for analysis, annotation, and presentation of evidence in court.

The Price Challenge

 

One of the primary concerns for agencies considering the adoption of EMS is the upfront cost. The initial investment required to implement a comprehensive system can be substantial, especially for smaller agencies or those operating on limited budgets. Factors influencing the cost of EMS include:

RELATED: HOW TO EVALUATE EVIDENCE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS- PART 1

The Value Proposition

 

Evidence Management

 

While the price of implementing EMS may seem daunting, it’s crucial to consider the value it brings to the table. A well-implemented EMS offers several tangible benefits that can ultimately outweigh the initial investment:

  1. Efficiency Gains: By automating manual processes, streamlining workflows, and providing centralized access to evidence, EMS can significantly improve operational efficiency, reducing the time and resources required for evidence management.
  2. Enhanced Security and Compliance: With features such as access controls, audit trails, and tamper-evident logging, EMS help agencies maintain compliance with legal and regulatory requirements while ensuring the security and integrity of evidence.
  3. Improved Chain of Custody Management: EMS provides a transparent and auditable record of evidence handling, reducing the risk of errors, disputes, or tampering and strengthening the credibility of evidence in court.
  4. Collaboration and Analysis: By facilitating collaboration among stakeholders and providing tools for analysis and presentation, EMS enhances the quality and effectiveness of investigations, leading to better case outcomes.
  5. Accessibility: In today’s environment, you should not even consider a product that does not already have the architecture to run on today’s devices. If you can’t pull up the software on a phone or tablet, the software you are looking at is already obsolete. Our evidence management software SAFE is browser-based, so users can work from anywhere on any internet-connected device.
  6. Scalability: Users and Items: Today, you may have only ten users, but with company growth, that number could become twenty. Make sure there are no limitations with regard to users or items and save yourself from system crashes and loss of core operational processes. Choose an evidence management software that eliminates error potential, and ensures confidence in the system.
  7. Integration: Software integration is essential to your evidence-tracking solution. Ask your software solution experts for examples of how their clients are successfully integrating with other software to leverage the data they are capturing.
  8. Integrity:The basic reason you are looking for an evidence tracking system is for the ability to track things and feel comfortable the system will produce qualified results. If users can make changes to the system without each of those changes being recorded and stored, your tracking system cannot show the whole truth.
  9. Affordability: Affordability is relative, of course, but compare the amount of loss over time with the cost of the best solution and make the obvious choice. Examine the pricing structure and method of software deployment. Is it simple and easy to understand? Tracker Products SAFE is not the cheapest, but it’s among the top tracking solutions available, and in the long term, SAFE will save time and money.
  10. Ongoing Development, Training, and Support: A true evidence management solution should be improved continually. Ask your prospective provider for a list of improvements in the software over the past three years. If the list is not impressive, it’s probably safe to question their tracking software, too. But if a key component of top evidence-tracking software is ease of use, why the ongoing training? Simple. Users get stuck in ruts and don’t always employ best practices. Ongoing training specifically about tracking your evidence will provide you with renewed vigor and excitement for implementing industry best practices. The nature of what you’re tracking, the devices, and the material used will also continue to change.

RELATED: HOW TO EVALUATE EVIDENCE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS- PART 2

Striking a Balance

 

The key challenge for agencies evaluating EMS solutions is to strike a balance between upfront costs and long-term value. While it’s essential to consider budgetary constraints, focusing solely on minimizing costs may result in sacrificing critical features or compromising on the system’s effectiveness.

Instead, agencies should take a holistic approach to assessing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of EMS, considering not only the initial investment but also factors such as ongoing maintenance, training, support, and potential cost savings resulting from efficiency gains and improved outcomes.

Furthermore, agencies should prioritize solutions that offer scalability, flexibility, and interoperability, allowing them to adapt to evolving needs and seamlessly integrate with existing systems and future upgrades.

In short, while the price of implementing an Evidence Management Software System may present a significant hurdle for some agencies, the value it brings in terms of efficiency, security, compliance, and improved case outcomes cannot be overstated. By carefully weighing the costs and benefits and choosing a solution that aligns with their needs and priorities, agencies can maximize the return on investment and ensure effective management of evidence in the pursuit of justice.

Tracker Products and The Evidence Management Institute want to contribute to your ongoing education through a series of FREE online evidence management training classes. You can also watch the Tracker Products webinars and check out The Evidence Show! (recorded webinars).

To get in on the discussion with over 1,400 evidence custodians – join the Evidence Management Community Forum on Facebook.