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Apple Valley Police Department: From an Archaic Evidence Tracking System, to State-of-the-Art

March 4, 2020

Police and law enforcement agencies collect, access, track, and assess evidence. Evidence and property personnel are tasked with the unsung duties of working as the liaison between detectives and attorneys to ensure all evidence for criminal discovery is properly stored, documented, analyzed, presented in court, and eventually disposed of in accordance with all legal and ethical guidelines. 

In order to do that, it’s imperative to use state-of-the-art, evidence tracking software. But… not all of them are equal. 

RELATED:  THE FBI FEELS THE STING OF CHOOSING THE WRONG EVIDENCE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

Recently, we spoke with James Gummert – the Detective Sergeant for the Apple Valley Police Department in Minnesota – about his department’s decision to go with Tracker Products’ SAFE software

He said, “Before we had SAFE, our evidence management system was archaic; it was like Atari versus Xbox. We needed to upgrade for the future… which is now. Tracker Products’ SAFE software fits our needs in 2020. Now we can easily enter the property and evidence, track it, and run more in-depth reports. For example, we now have the ability to narrow our research for: sex assault kits, robbery cases, drug or murder cases, etc. With an effective system, we can get a better picture of what we have on a daily basis.

evidence management

With 43,000 items in our system, we’re not exactly New York City. But, we also don’t have large warehouses available to us for storage – we just have the basement level of our office building – so we’re constantly running out of space. The auto-disposition feature allows us to purge items that we no longer need. Meaning, we’re getting consistent reminders of, okay, in 90 days, the officer and evidence custodian are going to get a notification about the evidence and they’re going to review it to see if it should be kept or disposed of… with an explanation and documentation to support that directive.

RELATED: THE POWER OF AUTOMATING EVIDENCE DISPOSITION

Basically, our decision to go with Tracker Products was two-fold. One, we really felt that SAFE could give us the accountability we needed… when we needed it. And they had a solid customer base within our state, who seemed to be very pleased with the product. Those for me were more than enough to switch. Oh… and the customer service is second to none.”

When asked, Did you have any resistance from any other officers or from anybody else about making the switch to Tracker Products?

James said, “Yeah, absolutely we did. But I think it’s like any changes in life. We all get into our comfort zone. What I would tell people was… Well, the system we’re currently using wasn’t in your comfort zone six years ago. 

They were just happy with the status quo because it was comfortable. But, we needed to make sure to manage our property room with the best technology today. Now, in 2020, I believe we’ve got the best product to help us manage our property and evidence room efficiently and effectively.”

About disposing the evidence, he said, “We’re not gonna get rid of anything that is of benefit to a particular officer, investigator, or case. But, for example, there was a case where we arrested somebody and they had a half an ounce of weed on them. That’s a nothing case; it’s six years old. No one cares about it anymore, so we can get rid of the evidence. We also have a homeless issue here, and let’s say we take in a huge backpack. Well, we can’t hold on to that for years. So with Tracker’s system, we can set up a disposal notification saying… okay in 45 days we want to remind the officer that we have these items, they can authorize (substantiated) disposition, and out the door it goes. 

You know, when you have an old system – where it’s very simple in nature – and then you get a new system that’s so much more dynamic and versatile? You know it’s an upgrade immediately. 

We felt the forward momentum right when we went online with Tracker Products in mid-January. It was clearly a better product than the one we had previously. The basic things that we needed to learn, we learned. But now it’s just the nuances of the SAFE software that we’re getting to know. And that’s the same with any new system; there are things that you do 90% of the time and that other 10% come and go. And when they come in your wheelhouse, you just learn it and you have a new tool in the toolbox.

When I log into SAFE, I can quickly see the removable media: drug paraphernalia, photographs, bicycles, etc. That gives me a very quick, concise report of what we have. And that’s huge. It’s extremely helpful just to get that snapshot of what’s going on during any given day.

We just had a homicide over the weekend and officers were able to put photographs into the case right from the scene of the crime. So, right away when you pull the case up, anyone with access privileges can follow that case and easily access the photographs. And, the evidence is all in one area within the Tracker Products’ system. 

In the past, we’d take all the photographs, and put them into Laserfiche – a document management software – and then we’d put all of the other evidence into a different system. So, if you wanted to look at photographs and you wanted to see the property, you’d have to go back and forth, back and forth. Now, everything for that case is right there at my fingertips. I don’t have to go to different places; I can look at it all in real-time in a single platform. For organization purposes, that’s huge!

RELATED: ADAPTING TO NEW EVIDENCE MANAGEMENT PROTOCOLS

evidence tech

But it wasn’t just the Tracker Products’ system that impressed me, the customer service took the product to a whole new level. We’ve all had experiences in our lives where we’ve purchased something and once you make the purchase, the sales person vanishes and the support vanishes. That leaves a very bad taste in your mouth. But, Beth Bennett, our Support and Implementations Administrator, has been with us since day one. When we’re interacting, she’s always extremely positive and helpful.

Trust me, agencies talk. When they call me and say, Hey, we’re thinking about changing our property and evidence management software. Who do you guys use? I’ll tell them that we chose Tracker Products because it’s an excellent system, and the customer service is over-the-top! Beth has been a huge game-changer, as far as I’m concerned.

And she got us started on the system pretty fast. The kickoff call with her was in mid-September and then we went live mid-January. The first thing we did was to do an initial review of the data. Then we had another call to discuss how we were going to get it organized – she was doing translations, mapping, things like that. Then she went back and did a trial import. After that, we were trained on the Tracker Products software – that took a few weeks –  followed by  training the rest of our officers and staff. To me, the process moved along quickly, efficiently and  effectively.” 

Do you need a better system for managing evidence, collections, assets, legal records, or other sensitive information? Tracker Products can help get you back on track. Contact us today to learn more about Tracker’s software or to get a free trial.

Our SAFE evidence tracking software is more than just barcodes and inventory control, this Tracker Product is 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, VISIT EMI HERE.