As law enforcement agencies continue to become invested in camera devices attached to their fleet and personnel, the ability to manage these devices, and their sprawling content are important. But it’s not enough to have the tools to manage them, you have to have everything in one software application. Having to access multiple manage devices, then content, then repository functions (i.e. evidence management) is simply not going to work. Let’s talk briefly about the best practices’ vendors should be employing to serve your agency needs.
Devices are varied. There are eye-level cameras, body-worn cameras, dash-mounted cameras, prisoner transport cameras, and still more are being developed, all in an effort to effectively document the incidents law enforcement encounters. Law enforcement agencies found out very quickly that having devices from multiple vendors causes sorted issues across information technology infrastructure. From storage, and necessary software, to proprietary file formats, and limitations on combining files into a single case.
Vendors scrambled in a number of directions to address this issue. Many tried to develop a multitude of devices quickly, which led to varying degrees of success, but not to the same level of quality their initial device presented. Some tried to develop “work-arounds” to their software programs. This is a bigger problem that we’ll address briefly, but may have to save for a more in-depth conversation another time. When a vendor presents a “work-around” to their own software, that means they didn’t code the software themselves. Likely what they have done is contracted an independent firm to construct the software they desired, at a competitive rate. The vendor owns the software outright, so they aren’t stealing the product they are now selling you. But, because it costs money to re-code the software, which means they have to take it offline in order for the work to be done, your vendor isn’t willing to pay the money for additional work needed to make the software truly functional, nor take it offline, meaning they have to find an alternative for your operations while the work is being done. That in itself is a problem. For now, draw your own conclusions as to why that might be a problem.
Still other vendors developed separate software applications for the management of the devices. These applications sit outside the main software deployed with the devices, and thus create another system to become familiar with, assign personnel, and potential pay additional maintenance and support on. Of course, why does the cost get passed onto you? You’re asking for essential functions, and clearly the other application was lacking in that function. There has to be a better way for your agency to spend resources on, and a better way for the vendor to serve your agency needs.
When it comes to content, law enforcement devices produce on a massive scale. From file types, to file size, law enforcement personnel are faced with scenarios that require copious amounts of their time and activity, and that leads to large files of recordings, ranging from audio, to video, and everything in between. And that means that your devices are going to be uploading huge files, and that leads to a major management function.
Many vendors have developed management software that reaches basic, and some advanced needs of law enforcement, as an industry standard. Being able to review everything in the system from one simple interface, using sorting and even filtering functions is commonplace in modern times, and the ability to assign retention periods to content. These are very much needed functions, in order for you to maintain organization over agency content, but they are not the only functions needed.
Content management software requires the ability to quickly select items that can be packaged together from a single event, and to also be assigned to a case potentially. They also need the ability for information to be pre-filled, so that when they are assigned to a case that information can be re-populated automatically within the case parameters, removing the need for redundant entries on the part of your personnel.
Content management software should also give you the ability to flag files for additional tasks, like administrative review, special handling, etc. It’s well known that not every incident law enforcement responds to will turn into a criminal investigation, but there may still be a significant value that content has, and you need some way of detailing that for other parties that are charged with reviewing that content.
Of course, the intended use all data collected on these devices, evidence. When it comes to cameras employed by law enforcement, the intention is to record and document criminal activity and/or investigations that produce evidence of a crime. Being able to wrap content into a case quickly, removing extra entry work, and even extra submittal processes for personnel is key. And that means that your content management system, and your evidence management system, have to work hand-in-hand to address this need.
Evidence management software also needs to have its own retention periods added. Many cases are cut and dry, and have two- or three-year retention periods. Some will have longer, and the ability to adjust this on the fly is important, especially when managing content and its lifecycle.
And evidence in one case can quickly become evidence in another. The ability to draw tangible relationships between cases, and their associated evidence becomes a huge necessity for investigators, when putting together larger cases of conspiracy, criminal enterprise, and the like.
How It All Comes Together
As you can see, a very brief overview of the relationships between devices, content, and evidence management shows why these three things need to be symbiotic. Without harmony between these tools, your agency is going to have to work harder, and likely inefficiently, to accomplish results.
When these three things are separated by barriers, you can never get the time and money back you’ll have to spend in order to document evidence from beginning to end. Having a solution that brings these things together in a way that removes barriers, and eliminates redundancies in entry and cataloging, is your best method of maximizing your personnel’s time, and your labor budget.
If your vendor hasn’t thought these things through, it’s time for a new vendor.
Be safe out there!