Police departments collect mounds of evidence each year. They must find a way to manage this evidence, including surveillance video. Furthermore, they must have somewhere to store it while adhering to best practices. If any evidence is mishandled or lost, the credibility of the agency suffers. For this reason, many organizations now choose to make use of a digital evidence management system (DEMS). When purchasing this system, what features should the agency consider?
Security and Compliance
Agencies should never store only one digital copy of the evidence. They need to ensure there is a backup, so if a file becomes corrupt or a system crashes, they still have the material. Experts recommend storing three copies on different servers located in multiple locations. This ensures a copy is always available when needed. A DEMS stores material locally or in the cloud. Those who want redundancy may also choose to store the files in both locations.
Integrates with Body Cams
More agencies today are investing in body cameras to protect suspects and officers. When comparing DEMS systems, look for one that integrates with the selected body cameras. This allows investigators to see all evidence in one location, including the body cam footage, photos, and video-recorded interviews. Anything captured digitally should be contained in this system to simplify the review process. The right system will be device agnostic.
Agencies need to know where to turn if problems arise when using the DEMS. Look for a system with a robust customer support team, one that doesn’t charge high fees when help is needed. This team should assist at every stage of the process from the initial deployment of the system to customer support once it is up and running.
Choose a system that allows officers to upload and review evidence regardless of where they are. This system should offer a desktop application along with a web-based interface, as this allows for more flexibility. Furthermore, having web-based access means the agency won’t need to support desktop systems that have the application installed. The information remains on the web, so it can be accessed on any system.
Chain of Custody
An agency must be able to show who accessed the evidence and when. This includes when a person views the evidence, prints it, downloads it, or shares the material. An effective DEMS handles this on behalf of the agency. An investigator can print off a report showing every interaction that has occurred since the evidence was entered into the system. Tracking has become of more importance today, as any evidence leaked to the media can be traced back to the source. This leads to an improvement in accountability and transparency across the agency.
Developers continue to improve on existing systems. Agencies that have yet to purchase a system of this type should consider doing so today, as it improves efficiency in every area. For those agencies already benefiting from a DEMS, now is the time to take a second look and see if the system would benefit from an update. Technology moves at an astounding rate, and the system must keep up. Make certain it is by evaluating new systems to see if there is room for improvement in the one currently being used. Evidence management is a task that can never be taken lightly.