10 Things to look for in digital evidence management systems
We are sometimes surprised to learn that potential clients don’t really understand what a fully capable digital evidence management system is capable of doing. They may know that whatever system they are using right now isn’t working, or at least isn’t very efficient, but they really have no idea what they are missing. So we thought we’d take a few minutes to talk about some of the important features that you should look for as you compare digital evidence management systems.
- First and foremost, a new digital evidence management system should be user friendly and easy to understand for even the most computer challenged among us. If the users are frustrated, you’ll get tired of hearing about it and you will be frustrated as well. Photo and video uploads should be intuitive and fast. No one wants to sit and watch a progress bar that doesn’t progress. You will find that some officers are comfortable with Internet Explorer, while others prefer to use Google Chrome or Firefox. Your evidence management system should be compatible with all of the common browsers and should readily adapt to different screen sizes or what’s commonly referred to as responsive design.
- Your new digital evidence management system should be versatile enough to accept files from virtually any source, such as any type of still camera, cell phones (iOS or Android), body-worn video cameras of any type, in-car cameras, surveillance cameras, etc…
- Any worthwhile digital evidence management system must have the ability to authenticate files before and after they are uploaded. You, and your prosecutor, will rest easier knowing that your photos and videos haven’t been altered or, if they have, the evidence software caught it and required an explanation from the uploader. Additionally, all other metadata from each individual file should be automatically captured and made easily searchable. That data will probably include device information, date and time the file was created, file height and width, GPS coordinates, and much more.
- The search capabilities within the evidence software are incredibly important. It doesn’t take long for even a small agency to amass thousands of photos and videos, none of which will help you if they cannot be easily located by any number of user-defined search queries.
- Your new digital evidence management system should absolutely offer a full and unalterable chain of custody. That chain will tell you, and anyone else, exactly who uploaded a file, who looked at a file, who downloaded a file, who deleted a file, who printed a file, and just about anything else associated with those files.
- The ability to share files digitally is one of the reasons agencies are often compelled to look for a better system. There is no longer any good reason to print photos, or even to burn them to a CD/DVD, when you can allow virtually anyone of your choosing direct (but limited) access to your new evidence management software. Let the prosecutor look up the case photos himself, and he can download or print the ones he actually needs, rather than wasting your staff time and resources.
- Along those same lines, you (or your system administrator) should be able to grant user permissions to individuals or specified user groups that allow customized levels of access based on need. Not every officer needs access to every photo. Make sure your new digital evidence management system will allow you the ability to restrict access to sensitive cases to only those who actually need it.
- Even the most basic digital evidence management systems should offer simple enhancement tools (the use of which is controlled by YOU) such as the ability to rotate images, invert colors, cropping, brightness, and contrast, etc… While top-end digital evidence management systems may allow side by side comparisons of photos (handy for comparing fingerprints or shoe impressions, among other things), calibration of images, synchronization of videos from different sources and angles, redaction of videos, or even integration with Adobe Photoshop.
- Your new evidence management system must have the ability to archive old cases and restore them as needed.
- One of the biggest challenges we face is the myriad of proprietary video formats that come through the evidence room, each requiring a different “player”. Will your new digital evidence management system play videos for all of the file types that you encounter? Or will it require the use of a third party program? Versatility is key, as is system support and vendor upgrades as digital technology evolves.
Hopefully, we’ve enlightened you, or at least reminded you, of the capabilities of some of the digital evidence management systems on the market today. Good luck as you search for the best digital evidence solution for your agency!