How to Counter the RMS Initiative (RMS vs EMS)…
If you are given a chance to reply to the question of “why not use the RMS,” consider the following actions that you can do to assist your agency in deciding what best serves the unit needs and the needs of the justice system when it comes to effective evidence management. Suppose your agency hasn’t totally bought into the single solution fantasy yet. These steps will help you debate various scenarios where you’re being forced to choose between cost and the best methods of evidence management.
- Know your existing operations. It’s very challenging to communicate the probable and actual risks associated with a system change if you aren’t keenly knowledgeable of your procedures. It is never too soon to start knowing your intake and disposition numbers, inventory levels, analyze time spent on critical tasks, start measuring workload, available staff hours, and job responsibilities. Of equal importance, generate a list of how your current system’s technology impacts your operations, then draft a set of software and hardware requirements to perform your functions. Law enforcement management has the difficult task of balancing priorities, and they require clear-cut facts that can be communicated well to make decisions. It’s natural to react negatively to change due to an emotional response or fear. But a good understanding of your processes will always make it much easier to communicate how the changes will affect your department.
- What are the unexpected ramifications? After careful examination of your operations and your existing evidence management capabilities, it is time to analyze your internal list of critical tasks and processes against the features of the RMS. Consider the following questions:
1. Does the new system provide the ability to resolve tasks, approve dispositions, manage digital evidence, or perform inventories?
2. How will barcode scanning be handled through the new system? What if you have multiple items to transfer or dispose?
3. Does the new system generate critical reports or provide up-to-the-minute data about your department?
4. How will a change of systems impact basic tasks?
5. How will the RMS system improve or change core processes?
6. Software vendors rarely sell their products based on what they cannot do, so it’s up to you, as the educated consumer, to advocate for the agency from an informed perspective.
Find and measure the hidden costs. Moving to a single system solution often seems like the less expensive option, but it can cost an agency much more than anticipated in terms of actual costs. An RMS solution that slows down documentation, labeling evidence, or completing inventories can continually add lost hours due to inefficiency. These drawbacks can add to significant losses throughout the evidence management cycle regarding time and staff hours required to perform essential functions. One of the most noticeable issues in many RMS solutions is the inventory function. How long will it take to conduct an entire inventory using the new system? The lack of functionality in a single system solution can add up to months of inefficiency throughout your operations. And finally, what about data migration costs from the old system to the new one?
Translate it to the field cost. The core business of most law enforcement agencies is patrol and investigation. The more you can translate the impact of a single solution system to keeping officers on the street and investigators in the field; the more likely executive decision-makers will listen and understand. Of course, a sound evidence management system provides the most robust possible chain of custody. Still, it can also act as a force multiplier by returning officers to their core duties measurably faster than using a system designed for records.
Communicate the impact up the chain. You may not be able to impact the final decision related to technological change, regardless of how significantly you will be impacted by the change. Your key role as an evidence manager is to advocate for the strongest possible chain of custody that you can provide. Document your fact-based concerns, share them with your chain of command, and inform them of the potential consequences, or costs, of change. Law enforcement executives are not always provided with a full perspective on the impact of new technology, and your voice could be the one that reverberates with the final decision. It certainly can’t happen if we choose to say nothing.
Understanding your agency’s needs, together with understanding the role of an RMS system and an evidence management system within your organization, is a critical step in advocating for sustainable evidence management practices. Learning how to communicate those needs to executive leadership is the next step to changing the attitude toward evidence management and for managing change in your organization. Understanding and communication are two skills that can help you lead your agency to an integrated technology approach that meets the needs of all stakeholders in the process.