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What is your vision for evidence management in your agency?

April 14, 2021

Having vision gives individuals and businesses a clear sense of purpose. It paints a much larger picture than simply setting and reaching short term goals, or reacting to problems as they arise.

Visions are driven by passion and dreams, and they are reflected through real efforts to create real results. To see why having a vision is critical for successful evidence management practices, read these motivational excerpts from a webinar with Ben Townsend, the founder and CEO of Tracker Products.

evidence management vision

Ben began this webinar by saying, “I think vision is an extremely important part of anything, no matter what you’re trying to accomplish in this world. But, the reason it may feel so extraordinary to be talking about it in a group like this is because I think generally, in law enforcement police departments, discussions about vision are not a normal occurrence. 

I know vision exists everywhere, but what I’m hoping to do today is take the concept of vision and bring it down to a level where it is applicable to what is going on in an evidence room. After discussing this, I hope you will walk away and say, Hey, that’s something I would like to implement, or something I’d like to take a serious look at. Later, we’ll talk about implementing that vision in order to accomplish it.

Let me give you a couple of quotes that I have come across that were really important to what we’re talking about here today. The first one is by Helen Keller and her quote is: The only thing worse than being blind, is having sight but no vision

Another quote is by Steve Jobs, who was able to take the vision he had for the future and make it a reality. I don’t think he was a very good person, but there are very few people who would doubt that he was a  visionary. His quote is: If you’re working on something exciting, that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed.

The vision pulls you. I think that’s something to consider with the work you do. Do you genuinely care about the work you’re doing? Does the work that you’re doing excite you and pull you along, or do you literally have to drag yourself out of bed just to make it through another day?

My next quote is: Where there is no vision, there is no hope. And I’ve found this to be of particular value because I believe the concept of vision does have a built-in hope factor to it. When you’re thinking ahead, focusing toward the future, and driving toward something, it provides a level of excitement. It gives hope about where you’re going and what is going on. 

The last quote is: Significant accomplishment has its roots, in significant vision. So, if you think about the work you’re trying to accomplish, I think it’s important for you to have a significant vision about what you want for the future of your evidence management practices.. 

Now I’m going to sort of take a side turn… As I shared a couple of weeks ago, when I did my first problem-solving leadership webinar, I told you a lot of this comes from me learning from doing things the wrong way.

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I wish I had 30 years of experience doing things the exact correct way, but many times I’ve learned the things that I’m talking about from doing it wrong. So, this particular topic is one of those that really kicked me in the butt. 

About five years ago, one of my developers came to me and said, Hey, I would like to run my own business someday, but I don’t know how to do it. Soon after that, I stumbled across a leadership book, and he and I started going through that leadership book together. And it was the chapter on vision that really struck me.It made me ask myself… Wait a minute, what are you doing? 

The reason it hit me so hard was because that same developer said, I don’t understand the vision of what we’re doing around here. And, as a business owner, I realized it’s a really, really bad thing to have somebody working for me that doesn’t understand the vision of what we’re trying to accomplish around here.

When you don’t have a vision, you can wander aimlessly and not even understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. And when he said that to me, I thought, Oh my goodness, how is it possible that somebody working here doesn’t even have a vision of what we’re trying to accomplish in this world? 

Just to further test whether that was true or not, I had lunch with a previous employee of our company and I asked him: What do you think the vision of Tracker Products was? He said, I really thought the vision of the company was to line your pockets. 

And, that would be great… if  I had a lot of money to show for my efforts. But when you’re reinvesting every dollar you’re making, there aren’t piles of money laying around. It was really hard to hear, especially when that’s completely contrary to what I thought our vision was. So, I realized I had a huge problem on my hands. 

Part of what we’re going to do today is go through the things that got me to the point of laying out the vision that I now share with everybody that is a part of Tracker Products. And I’m hoping this is going to help you to identify what some of your visions are; some of the things you want to accomplish within your evidence room. 

But, I would also suggest that the things we’re going to talk about are applicable in life, in relationships, in anything you’re trying to accomplish. It starts with a clear vision of what you’re trying to accomplish. And then you go about getting that done. 

I want to read another quote by John Maxwell, the author of the book we read: All effective leaders have a vision of what they must accomplish. That vision becomes the energy behind every effort and the force that pushes through all the problems.

Somebody’s always coming up with new problems, and your ability to push through those problems is critical. And, having that vision, and knowing what you’re trying to accomplish, helps you push through those problems.

According to his book, Developing the Leader Within You, there are four different levels of visionaries… 

four vision levels

The first level is: Some people never get it. They are wanderers in this world.

If you guys are doing the work that you’re doing, you have to have some vision for what you’re trying to accomplish. If you have no idea why you’re doing what you’re doing – you’re just showing up every day and doing the work that somebody else told you to do – you’re just wandering through life. 

My goal is to try to push you down to some of those higher levels (on the list above) to really have a sense of what you’re trying to accomplish. And we’re going to really dig into that as we go along. 

The second level is: Some people see it, but never pursue it on their own. They’re the followers. 

The next level is: Some people see it and pursue it. They are achievers. 

Then, the very last level – what I would say is the gold level – is: Some people see it and pursue it, and help others see it. They are the leaders.

We’re really gonna focus on that – helping others see it – as we go through this because I believe that is critical to the roles that you’re in. I know that we’ve got people on this webinar that are in all different levels of work or leadership, and there is seniority within your infrastructures, but I believe helping others see what you’re trying to achieve is a critical component to getting your vision out there.”

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Ben shared some more quotes from the book: “A person with vision talks little, but does much. A person with a vision finds strength from inner-convictions. A person with vision continues when problems arise.

If you sit and think about some people in your life, maybe some people in your organizations, you probably can pinpoint some of these people and you can say, That is a person with a vision.” 

Ben changed gears and said, “I’m a huge fan of Disney. I believe he is a true visionary. But, Walt Disney had already died when they were at the opening of Disney World in Orlando, so Mrs. Disney was asked to speak at the grand opening. Since Walt had died, she was introduced by a man who said, Mrs. Disney, I just wish Walt could have seen this. She stood up and said, He did, and sat down. 

And how true is that? I mean, Walt Disney never saw the final version of the actual theme park, but in his mind he knew exactly what that thing was going to look like.

We’re going to start helping you build a vision for what you’re trying to accomplish, and I hope you share your vision and goals with somebody. Let me give you an example… We get phone calls all the time from people that are in evidence management and they’re dismayed either because their boss doesn’t listen to them, or they devalue the work that the evidence custodian is doing. 

One of the questions I ask is, How often do you go to that boss and talk about what your goals and visions are, versus just walking in when there’s a problem? Your relationship is really based on this. If you conveyed to him some of your visions and goals, they may be shocked because most people aren’t expecting that. I guarantee you will get a different response out of that person when you’ve already built the relationship up, and it’s not just based on problems. 

On a different note, if there are multiple people in your evidence room, or you’re responsible for multiple people, are you consistently conveying a mission with everyone? Do you have priorities? Having a vision for your evidence room, that you convey to people, absolutely is a critical component. Because, if they don’t know what you’re thinking, how are they going to know how to help you actualize your vision?

David Bragg is a person with a vision at Bowling Green PD. Every year he sits down with his chief and gives him statistics about what’s going on in his evidence room. He doesn’t wait for his Chief to ask for information, he willingly goes to him every year and says, Hey, these are the most critical things we’re working on. These are the things we’re doing well on. Maybe here’s the things we’re not doing so well on. 

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I’m going to put this Word document in the Facebook Community Group, and I’m hoping that you’re going to download this word document, and use this as a jumping off point for putting a vision together for the evidence room. 

I’d really like you to work on this and then eventually print it out and put it on the wall. Imagine if every day, when you came in, you looked at a document that laid out some of your long term visions and accomplishments! I promise you will go through your work in a much different way when you’ve laid out what it is you’re trying to do. 

Let me read through some of these things that I’ve written down on here to just sort of get the ball rolling. And what I’d like is for you, if you have other things that you would like to add to this, I’d love for you to put them on there, and maybe even share them with the Community Group. 

So, let’s start out with some of the ones that I think are the most important visions and goals.

 my vision for evidence room

Number one: I will consistently engage my boss, (my superior, my chief, et cetera,) and simply communicate with them. Not just convey the problems, but to talk.  It would help if you put a recurring meeting on your calendar. 

Number two on the list: If I lead a team of techs, I will consistently meet and discuss elements of this document. I will convey things that are going well (referring to my vision), but also give feedback on areas that can be improved. 

Number three: My users have been trained on evidence intake and the training is so meticulous that I only spend a fraction of my day storing the new items that are coming in. Be very specific, put an amount of time instead of the word fraction on there. 

So, if right now it takes you an hour every day to do intake. One of your visions may be, I want that to be a 10 minute process every day. How are you going to go about getting that done? What are the things that need to happen to get there? That’s something you put on the wall and you can come back and say, How am I doing on that?

Number four: I will complete full inventories of all my guns, drugs, and monies every quarter. And all of my evidence reports will be submitted to show that the work has been completed. 

What would your chief (or your sheriff or your boss) do if you laid out some of your goals and objectives and said, Hey, I just want to share with you some of the things that I’m trying to accomplish. They wouldn’t even know what to do with themselves. 

Number five: I will submit annual evidence reports to my boss so that the command staff is fully aware of critical statistics and better aware of the evidence state of the union. If that’s something you feel strongly about, commit to doing it every year.

Number six: Dispose of as much evidence as I bring in each year. Then you need to ask yourself, How are we going to accomplish these things? But today, we’re not concerned with how to accomplish them – or even if it’s possible – you just need to write down the things you want to shoot for, regardless of how crazy they are. 

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Number seven: I will be able to find any piece of evidence in my room within X minutes.  Depending on the size of your room, replace the X with an actual time value. Then, every year, have somebody test you on that.

Number eight – and I think this is a really important one: I will not bow to failure or problems. I will take them as an opportunity to learn and move on. I will share my failures so that others can learn from them. That’s a critical component.

At this point, you are not concerned whether or not it’s possible to accomplish these things. I would also write down:  If I could… fill in the blank with a wish of yours. So maybe it’s: If I had two employees or two volunteers in my evidence room, here’s what I would do. I would convey that to your superior and say, If I had this thing, I could get this thing done. 

Remember, don’t go to your superior just with problems; try to think of several solutions too. 

Keep this word document on your computer, and update it with the things you’ve accomplished. And then, when you meet with your superior every year, let them know these are the things that have been accomplished. Because if you don’t tell them, they probably don’t know what you’re accomplishing. 

When you look at the accomplishments piling up, you are going to be far more excited about your job. For me, I start out every year and I put down personal and business accomplishments for myself. 

One of my personal accomplishments was to read X number of books this year. So, I’m keeping track of them. And, every couple of weeks, a reminder pops up on my computer and I look through all the things that I listed to see if I’m on track. 

We’ve got 25 employees that are part of Tracker Products. So, I keep on top of the things that they’re trying to do. And are you moving toward accomplishing some of those things you want? We want your business goals, and we also want your personal goals. If you say, Hey, I really want to work out this year, we’re going to ask you about that as the year that goes along: How are you going about achieving that thing? 

Again, the way you accomplish great things is to have great vision. And, if you don’t have vision at all, you can easily go through a day, a week, a month, a year, just moving along and you didn’t get anything accomplished.

Tracker Products and The Evidence Management Institute want to give you something productive to think about during this time of uncertainty… a series of free evidence management training and panel discussions. Watch and comment on the webinars here. Or – to get in on the discussion, with nearly 600 other evidence custodians – join the Evidence Management Community Forum on Facebook.

Tracker Product’s SAFE evidence tracking software is more than just barcodes and inventory control, it’s 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 from our partner company, VISIT EMI HERE