We previously discussed two prongs of a three prong model describing modern and successful police evidence management. The first prong is the forward looking process of managing evidence; making certain that items are collected, packaged and labeled correctly. This first prong also involves ensuring evidence integrity through a bulletproof chain of custody and routine electronic auditing. Retention management is the second prong and it refers to managing the final disposition of evidence so that police departments are not holding evidence too long. An agency’s evidence management system must collect the data necessary to proactively alert case officers and evidence custodians when evidence items are idle too long.
In Pennsylvania, for example, PD Evidence LLC is working with the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) and the Pennsylvania Justice Network (PA JNET) to interface with the court docket system through use of JNET web services. The interface enables the PDEVIDENCE family of applications to know when cases have reached final disposition in the court system, which prevents needless retention and laboratory analysis.
The third prong of modern evidence management is handling digital evidence. Digital evidence represents a relatively new challenge in police evidence management and the approach taken by agencies to meet this challenge varies. We have seen some departments install a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device in their evidence room for the storage of digital pictures, in-car video footage, body cam video, other multimedia, and scanned documents. Other departments are burning these files to disc and then handling their storage and management as physical evidence.
PD Evidence discussed basic digital evidence management in a previous article. Integrating digital evidence into your agency’s existing evidence management system makes a lot of sense. When that solution is cloud based, it makes even more sense. First, the capital expenses and technical requirements of storage devices are eliminated. Second, a cloud based solution offers instantaneous access to the prosecutor’s office without the need to burn files to disc, or copy off to a flash drive, for transport to the prosecutor’s office.
The PDEVIDENCE Evidence Management System also makes it far easier for investigators to locate and access digital evidence. Investigators can add descriptive tags to digital evidence when it is entered which facilitates fast and efficient search and retrieval. Further, the Evidence Management System automatically reviews digital picture uploads to identify key depictions in the image. These observations are automatically translated into tags such as handgun, firearm, sidewalk, chair, etc. Finally, PD Evidence is in the process of becoming Exchangeable Image File (EXIF) aware. EXIF data is metadata included in a digital picture file by digital cameras. EXIF data includes information about the camera itself and the camera settings employed for each picture. GPS enabled devices can also include the geographic coordinates of the picture location.