Free RMS evidence module? (The good, the bad, and everything in between)
In the previous article titled “Why Evidence Management Software?”, we discussed the advantages of having an advanced evidence management software system in every evidence room, and we talked about the things you might be missing if you’re still managing your evidence “the old way”. Today, we discuss one of the myths surrounding the free RMS evidence module. Don’t be fooled. “Free” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re saving money. In fact, you might eventually spend triple the amount you think you are saving. In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of almost all commonly available RMS evidence modules and we’ll let you decide what option better fits your needs and your budget.
RMS Evidence Module Pros
- It’s free! No one will ever argue how loudly that word rings! What they don’t tell you, though, is that it’s free “as is”. No customization whatsoever. If you need ANY customization to the evidence module, it might cost your department triple the amount you would normally pay for any software customization.
- Officers don’t need to go to a different system to enter their evidence, and if they are used to the RMS, they need only minimal training to use the evidence module.
- All information is stored in one system.
- Automated chain of custody.
RMS Evidence Module Cons
- Weak customer support: Most RMS systems did not build their evidence module from inside the evidence room. They built it quick to store evidence data and included it in the RMS as a free module so they can claim that their RMS can handle the evidence room. We’ve heard from many people who were forced to use the RMS evidence module “RMS doesn’t make money out of the evidence room and that’s why our technical problems are never their priority”.
- Inability to handle digital evidence: Very few evidence modules that are included in RMS systems have the ability to handle digital evidence. All police departments collect digital evidence from crime scenes. Your crime scene photos, interview recordings, in-car, and wearable camera videos will need to be handled separately in a different system, or even worse, on a DVD or hard drive.
- While your RMS system can store your basic evidence information, there are a lot of operations it probably CAN’T perform. For instance, can they handle inventory, evidence transfer, evidence disposition, evidence statute of limitation, automatic reminders, etc…? Based on what we’ve seen, your RMS probably doesn’t support any of these critical operations.
- Weak reporting ability: We’ve mentioned previously that handling evidence involves a lot of paperwork. Evidence reports, cash reports, ATF reports, lab reports, and more. When you use the RMS evidence module to enter your data, you’ll probably need to find another way to print all these reports, wasting even more of your officers’ time.
- Limited search capabilities: Once again, because your RMS evidence module wasn’t built from inside the evidence room, you may find that performing even simple search functions can be difficult. The idea of automating your evidence room means the ability to find your “stuff” quickly and easily. If your RMS or current evidence system can’t provide that, you’re wasting valuable time.
- No statute of limitation: Evidence technicians know that every piece of evidence (including lost and found property) has to be retained for some predetermined length of time. Most agencies will base this initial retention period on the statute of limitations. Every evidence technician knows the importance of that piece of information because once that date has come and gone, you can start the disposition process to free up more space in your evidence room. Most RMS systems don’t automatically notify you as items pass that date, which can lead to piles of unneeded items in your evidence room. Most evidence rooms already have plenty of shelf space IF items are being disposed of efficiently.
If you’re forced to use the RMS evidence module and you still want to manage your evidence room efficiently, there is a hybrid solution for you that offers a seamless bridge between your RMS your evidence management system. It will transfer your data back and forth with a click of a button without the need to duplicate your data entry work. Your officers can continue to use RMS as a data entry system and CaseGuard will manage the data from that point until the final disposition of the evidence. It’s easy to find evidence, run physical inventory, transfer, dispose of evidence, build and run reports, and export your data in any format you might need.
Let’s face it. RMS systems are great at what they do, but they are built to handle records, not evidence.