f1682bb9-4590-413e-b139-b0e355869df7

Data Security in Evidence Management Software: Protecting the Chain of Custody

In law enforcement, where the evidence locker and the digital evidence collide, how do you ensure the integrity and security of data in an evidence management system that protects the vital chain of custody?

If you’re curious about the role of robust security measures, the significance of an audit trail, and how continuous monitoring contributes to this endeavor, then let’s explore this further by stepping into the intersection of law enforcement and technology, a junction where every detail matters.

Data Security in Evidence Management Software

In managing evidence, you’ll find that data security in software applications is a pivotal factor, requiring rigorous protocols and encryption measures to ensure information integrity and confidentiality. Data security in evidence management software becomes critical for maintaining the chain of custody protection. It isn’t merely about access control; it’s about ensuring that every piece of data has a clear, unbroken evidence chain of custody.

Audit trails play a significant role in this. They track each action performed on a piece of evidence, providing a record of who accessed what, when, and what changes they made. It’s not enough to have audit trails, though. Regular security audits are essential to ensure that these trails are accurate and haven’t been tampered with.

Continuous monitoring is another crucial aspect of data security. It’s not just about checking in periodically, but actively watching for anomalies and potential security breaches. You must be prepared to respond swiftly and appropriately to potential threats.

Types of data security in evidence management software

Understanding the types of data security in evidence management software can help you identify the right tools and safeguards. Here are three main types of data security in evidence management software:

  • Incident Response Planning: This involves developing a systematic approach to manage the aftermath of a security breach or cyber attack, also known as an IT incident. This type of security planning aims to limit damage and reduce recovery time and costs.
  • User Training on Security: It’s vital to train all users in security best practices. Awareness and understanding of potential threats can significantly mitigate risks.
  • Integration with Security Systems: Evidence management software often integrates with existing security systems to provide a robust protective layer. This integration can enhance security by leveraging the strengths of multiple systems.

Choosing the right type of security depends on your specific operational needs, resources, and the sensitivity of the data you’re handling. It’s not just about picking a solution; it’s about selecting the right approach for your law enforcement organization.

Importance of data security in evidence management software

Ensuring robust data security in your evidence management software is a critical component to safeguard the integrity of evidence, protect sensitive information, and bolster the overall efficacy of your investigation process.

The pivotal role of data security can’t be overstated. It’s instrumental in maintaining the reliability of your digital evidence. Any compromise on data protection can lead to the manipulation or loss of critical evidence, potentially derailing your entire investigation.

Besides, it’s the confidentiality of sensitive data at stake. Without stringent data security measures, victims’ or witnesses’ personal information–or even suspects’–could be exposed, violating privacy laws and ethical guidelines.

Moreover, data security measures enhance the credibility of your investigative process. It assures law enforcement professionals that you’re adhering to established protocols and best practices, building trust and confidence in your operations, and ensuring compliance with legal and ethical standards

Chain of Custody Protection

As you navigate the complexities of evidence management, maintaining the chain of custody becomes a paramount security measure to prevent any unauthorized access or alteration of evidence. Ensuring the integrity of this chain is essential to building a robust evidence management system.

Chain of custody protection can be enhanced by focusing on three key areas:

  • Role-Based Access Control: Prevent unauthorized access and ensure that only individuals with the right privileges handle critical evidence.
  • Encryption: Protect data from being tampered with or accessed without the right decryption keys.
  • Regular Review: Routinely review the system. Regular checks can detect any potential vulnerabilities and allow you to take corrective action promptly.

With cyber threats growing in sophistication, it’s crucial that your evidence management system is robust and secure. A break in the chain of custody compromises the integrity of your data and may lead to legal troubles based on a lack of evidence integrity.

Audit Trails

You must not overlook the importance of detailed audit trails and audit reports for tracking access to digital case files. They serve as a critical component in maintaining the integrity of the data. An audit trail is a chronological record of system activities that provides an independently verifiable path showing who accessed what data, when, and what changes were made.

Audit trails help in detecting and preventing unauthorized access or changes to data, providing a deterrent effect. You can’t underestimate their role in identifying potential security incidents or breaches. They’re instrumental in determining the scope and impact of a security incident by tracing back the actions of an unauthorized law enforcement professional.

When evaluating evidence management software, ensure it:

  • Supports detailed, tamper-evident audit trails, recording all actions taken within the system and preventing unauthorized alterations to these records.
  • Produces comprehensive audit reports for review and analysis.

Incident Response Planning

An incident response plan is part of a well-defined digital evidence management software plan for identifying, responding to, and recovering from a data breach or cyberattack. It’s a safety net when things go wrong.

The incident response plan should include :

  • Identification: Set up the system to constantly monitor suspicious activities and potential threats promptly.
  • Response: Once an incident has been detected, immediate action should include isolating the affected systems to prevent further damage, investigating the cause, and assessing the extent of the damage.
  • Recovery: After the incident, restore normal operations and regain control by .repairing damaged systems, recovering lost data, and implementing measures to prevent future incidents.

User Training on Security

Knowledge is the first line of defense in data security. To bolster data security in evidence management software, you must invest in thorough user training on security protocols and procedures. This is a key step in protecting the integrity of the complete chain of custody. Inadequate or ineffective training could lead to accidental breaches, jeopardizing both the data and your law enforcement organization’s reputation.

Topics in your training program should include:

  • Password security, emphasizing the necessity for strong, unique passwords and regular updates.
  • Network Security, such as the dangers of using unsecured network connections, such as public Wi-Fi. Teach users about phishing attempts and how to recognize suspicious emails or links.
  • Access control. Users should be trained to understand their access privileges and the importance of not sharing their credentials.
  • Privacy Policies Furthermore, it’s essential to educate them about the legal and ethical implications of unauthorized access or tampering with evidence data.
  • Incident management. Users should have an understanding of the secure storage process, how response procedures work, and their role in this.

Regular Security Audits

Through regular security audits you maintain the security of your digital evidence management solution, protect the integrity of your evidence, and safeguard the whole chain of custody. Audits should focus on:

  • Confirmation of the adherence to established security protocols
  • Detection of any vulnerabilities that might have developed since the last audit
  • Assessment of the efficacy of data recovery plans

Regular tests of these recovery systems should be part of your audit process.

Integration with Security Systems

A well-integrated system is far more difficult for unauthorized individuals to penetrate. Your digital evidence management system should be capable of interacting smoothly with firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and secure data transmission protocols, such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS). It’s a key move to enforce data consistency, integrity, and confidentiality  of your evidence files.

If your digital evidence management software is effectively integrated, it will trigger immediate alerts when suspicious activities are detected. This will allow you to respond quickly to mitigate potential damage. One key point to consider during integration is the compatibility of the systems. You’ll need to ensure that all components communicate effectively with one another, without causing any disruptions or data losses.

The integration process may require a significant amount of time and resources, due to the complexity of the systems involved. However, this investment is essential to ensure the maximum security of your evidence management software.

Continuous Monitoring

Continuous monitoring of your digital evidence system is a dynamic process that requires ongoing vigilance and proactive measures to ensure your chain of custody remains unbroken.

Continuous monitoring can be broken down into three core aspects:

  • Detection: Your systems should be equipped to identify unusual activity or unauthorized access attempts. This involves analyzing user behavior and network traffic patterns to spot potential threats.
  • Response: Once a threat is detected, it’s critical to respond swiftly to mitigate the risk. This could involve isolating affected systems or initiating incident response procedures.
  • Reporting: Detailed and regular reporting is essential to track your security status. Reports can highlight vulnerability trends, unsuccessful access attempts, and the overall effectiveness of your security measures.

Conclusion

Don’t underestimate the importance of efficient evidence management. It plays a pivotal role in maintaining the integrity of your evidence collection, upholding justice, promoting faster case resolution, and enhancing your law enforcement organization’s reputation.

Feel free to share if you find this interview helpful. Get in touch with us if you have any questions.

The Sherriff Office's Roadmap To State Accreditation Using ERIN7

The Sherriff Office’s Roadmap To State Accreditation Using ERIN7’s Streamlined Evidence Handling Software

Investigator Brandi Jones is a 16-year veteran of the Rockdale County Sherriff’s Office in Georgia. As the primary evidence custodian in the property and evidence division, she shares her experience with best practices for developing their state accreditation process. 

Interview With Brandi Jones

Read the full interview here for a summary of her evidence room operational ideas.

How important is a good evidence management system?

Records storage isn’t just about property and evidence. It’s about people’s lives. Homicide evidence must be stored for 50 years, for example, so we need a reliable evidence process. We’re not dealing with just records storage. We’re dealing with people’s lives. And that’s why a good system is critical for everyone involved. Evidence provides answers. People want answers. They want the CSI effect. We have cases of evidence that can put a criminal away for 20 years. Or a cold case depends on stored evidence for a reinvestigation potentially 20 years from now! With ERIN7 I have the evidence from police cases with the same integrity as the day we did the original evidence gathering. The officer in charge could go back and maybe exonerate someone or confirm their conviction.

Are evidence items easier to track with ERIN7?

Much easier! For example, if I had a case come in with three bags of marijuana, a pipe, and a book bag, we used to enter all of those items under one barcode label. That made it almost impossible to keep track of each of the items of evidence. With the new ERIN7, it is easier for me to separate those items, and each becomes its own entity with its own barcode. You couldn’t go into the evidence collection and remove the book bag or lose track of it. That label still shows in the system. No matter what it is, in a property and evidence room every item needs to be accounted for. That shows the integrity and confidence level of your room. When the auditors come from the state, they look at everything. The ERIN7 system is an open book that follows the accreditation process so nothing can be hidden. That builds confidence and credibility in your culture of evidence management.

How Does ERIN7 help with State Accreditation Practices?

Annual evidence unit audits, updates, and basic evidence in inventory are a lot to contend with. The new ERIN7 system definitely helps with the inventory, the scanning, and the audits. My auditors can join in and be a part of it which removes me, the primary evidence custodian, from security concerns of actually seeing anything. It makes it harder to falsify anything or to do anything wrong. Before we had ERIN7, we had to run reports and print 300 pieces of paper on everything that was in my evidence room. The auditor had to go through each piece of paper manually. Keeping all that filing correct was an evidence room operations headache.

Do all ERIN7 evidence unit personnel see the same thing?

I can allow people to join with certain privileges, especially during the audit time. Some can see the audit while others just see the inventory. It is highly organized so we can find what we need quickly. I can just go into the inventory itself, or use tools to scan different ways. I can even scan the actual location itself, such as drug box 15 of 2022. It’s just so much easier. It shows you everything that’s supposed to be in there or not in there, and then it prints out a nice little report that includes the chain of custody.

How has ERIN7 digital evidence management saved time?

At least a week every year. I have to have a 100% audit of my drugs, guns, money, and high-end items. ERIN7 cut it down to a week for that. It’s definitely been beneficial. Before ERIN7 we went through some issues with some items being misplaced and things like that. ERIN7 has improved that and given the officers more credibility. For example, my commander has privileges to come in and see everything that I’ve done, that I’ve entered, that I’ve taken out. ERIN7 backs you up and says, “This is what happened to this item. This is where it went. This is the date it went.” It makes everything a little bit easier because they do have more access to the system and see the operations.
When we got ERIN7 with the advanced features, I was like, “Wow, we’ve been missing a lot!”

Has ERIN7 helped in other ways?

My yes! One captain found it much easier to search and find info. For example, getting com stats and the analysis of the number of guns we collected, how many suspects were arrested, etc. With limited privileges, users can do a search on how many firearms they took in during a specific timeframe. We post those stats on our web page for the public to see. These advancements have made work easier and more efficient for a lot of different divisions. We can measure and report on things we never could before.

Is ERIN7 easy to use?

Very! Even casual users find it easy to navigate and get the info they need. The system is simple to maneuver, and if you’re looking for something specific, you just hit your search button. It’s a very easy system to work with.

Does ERIN7 preserve history and knowledge?

That is a very important feature of ERIN7. Any time we need something, it’s there. That was my biggest security concern. You shouldn’t require the property and evidence clerk to know everything, because what if something happened to them? A couple of years ago our sergeant was in charge of everything, and something happened to him. Everybody was at a loss. “Oh, my gosh, what do we do now? Where do we go now?” After that, everything had to change and it was a traumatic event for us. That won’t happen with ERIN7 because it stores everything and most everyone can self-service already.

What tips would you have for someone starting a search for the perfect program?

My three top tips for law enforcement agencies making a move to a digital evidence management system are:
  1. Technical assistance. When you have any issues, you want an immediate, helpful response. Vet the vendor’s support service response time.
  2. Ease-of-use. I have so much evidence to enter every day, so the system needs to be work-friendly and easy to operate.
  3. Ability to meet accreditation requirements. ERIN7 helps us meet all the accreditation standards to pass and stay accredited.

How is the technical support from Erin Technology?

Excellent. They’ve always been a big help, no matter what I need from them. With the new ERIN7, there was a learning process. Their attitude is “Anything you need!” I count on them a lot.

What other department goals has ERIN7 helped you achieve?

  • Checks and balances are crucial. ERIN7 has all the checks and balances we need. For example, on my desktop, I can see my total inventory or my “items ready for disposal” or the ones in “temporary locations.” ERIN7 lays out everything. No more guessing.
  • Knowing precisely what I have in inventory. How many cases do I have? It has “cases for review,” and “cases with review for 31 to 91 days upcoming.” It’s a database that has everything.
  • Knowing which cases are obsolete. It knows which cases are ready for disposal. It helps us purge the junk.
ERIN7 has been such a game-changer for us that I have recommended it to other departments. There is no better endorsement than that.   #Inventory of Evidence, #Types of Evidence, #Digital Files, #Digital Evidence Management Solution, #Law Enforcement Officers, #Repetitive Tasks, #Investigative Process, #Crime Scene, #Critical Evidence, #Digital Evidence Systems, #Evidence Management Process, #Evidence Integrity, #Evidence Management Challenges, #Police Departments, #Public Safety Agencies, #Manual Tasks, #Handwritten Documents, #USB Drives, #Physical Copies, #Solid Chain, #Consolidation of Evidence, #Efficient Evidence Management Software, #Evidence with Courts, #Evidence Types, #Law Enforcement Organizations, #File Types, #Law Enforcement Personnel, #Life of Evidence

Feel free to share if you find this interview helpful. Get in touch with us if you have any questions.

Role of Chain of Custody in the Idaho Student Murder Case

A Maze of Evidence: The Critical Role of Chain of Custody in the Idaho Student Murder Case

In high-profile, complex criminal cases, such as the University of Idaho student murder case, defense attorneys play a central role in scrutinizing and questioning the vast landscape of evidence presented by the prosecution.

The defense’s role is to create a counter-narrative, challenge the evidence’s validity, and safeguard the defendant’s rights. Their strategy is often centered around relentless demands for specific pieces of evidence, which can help them construct a robust defense or expose potential flaws in the prosecution’s case.

In the case of 28-year-old criminology student and murder suspect Bryan Kohberger, who was arrested in the University of Idaho murders incident which is dominating the news right now, the defense attorney’s persistent requests for specific evidence underscores evidence’s pivotal role in shaping a trial’s outcome and how it tilts the scales of justice.

The demand for evidence isn’t just a legal formality but a critical component of the legal process. The defense’s demands also underscore the significance of law enforcement officials maintaining meticulous records of every item collected, ensuring none is lost, mishandled, or inaccurately documented.

Such a rigorous approach to evidence management helps guarantee the integrity of the legal process and the validity of the court’s final judgment.

From Vast Evidence to a Death Penalty Case

Detectives collected more than 20,000 pieces of evidence which drew scrutiny and intrigue from the public because it included:

  • 10,000 pages of reports and other written materials
  • 10,200 photographs
  • 9,200 tips
  • 51 terabytes of phone records, audio/visual media, and digital materials

This poses the question: Is this typical or extraordinary for a serial murder case? The number is indeed staggering. However, each piece of evidence, regardless of its perceived significance, serves a unique purpose in the broader investigation. Every item collected provides a piece of the puzzle that investigators must analyze to ascertain the truth.

In this multi-jurisdictional case, the volume of evidence collected for Bryan Kohberger’s preliminary hearing came from an exhaustive investigation conducted across different states and involving numerous law enforcement agencies.

Ultimately, this massive body of evidence, meticulously gathered and analyzed, convinced prosecutors that there was sufficient cause to seek the death penalty in this first-degree murder case.

The Power of STR DNA Profiling

The breakthrough in the Bryan Kohberger case came from utilizing a procedure known as a short tandem repeat analysis or STR analysis, a common type of DNA profiling in criminal cases and other types of forensic cases, according to the National Institute of Justice. A leather knife sheath found at the murder scene with trace evidence was matched to DNA evidence of Kohberger’s father at the Pennsylvania family residence.

“The STR profile is at least 5.37 octillion times more likely to be seen if (the) Defendant is the source than if an unrelated individual randomly selected from the general population is the source,” prosecutors said in the filing. An octillion is a number equal to a 1 followed by 27 zeros.

This method offered the scientific reliability needed to identify Kohberger conclusively since the defense claimed that multiple other men’s DNA profiles were found at the Moscow, Idaho murder scene.

The Role of Evidence Management Software Like ERIN7 in Murder Investigations

In such a sprawling, multi-state, multi-jurisdictional investigation as the Bryan Kohberger case, having an efficient, reliable method of documenting and tracking evidence is mandatory. ERIN7 software, specifically designed for law enforcement purposes, provides a robust solution for these challenges. Its ability to meticulously record and trace the chain of custody on evidence collected at crime scenes plays an instrumental role in ensuring the integrity of an investigation.

Tracking over 20,000 pieces of evidence is an enormous task, and without a secure digital system like ERIN7’s, it can be prone to errors, misplacement, and mismanagement. A streamlined process of recording, tracking, and retrieving each piece of evidence, from the point of collection to the courtroom, not only makes the task manageable but also enhances the credibility of the evidence.

While ERIN Technology’s evidence management software was not involved in this particular case, the primary purpose of software like this is to allow immediate access to specific evidence when required, whether by the defense or other law enforcement agencies.

Even when there may be a lack of DNA evidence, there are typically many other kinds of evidence to be coded and tracked, such as surveillance footage, video footage, body cam footage, and security footage.

With so much manpower being devoted to finding, prosecuting, and bringing a murderer to justice, digital evidence management software (DEMS) is the only way to build a solid case and speed up the legal process. In time-sensitive investigations, efficiency makes the difference between justice served or denied.

The Bryan Kohberger defense team’s case offers an in-depth exploration of the paramount importance of comprehensive, accurate evidence documentation. It’s not just about the volume of evidence collected; it’s about the precision in its management and its role in determining the path of justice.

As technology integrates deeper into our lives, solutions like ERIN7 software are essential in establishing robust, efficient criminal justice systems. The ability to adapt and integrate such technological advancements is what will shape the future of law enforcement and criminal investigations.

For more information about ERIN7, schedule a live demo.

Robbie Giles, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

The Impact Of Digital Evidence Management Software

The Impact Of Digital Evidence Management Software On Cold Case Investigations

With enhancements in evidence management software, investigators have powerful new tools and innovative methods to help solve cold cases; even decades later.

What is Evidence Management Software?

Cloud-based evidence management software is a tool that helps law enforcement organizations manage the collection, storage, and analysis of evidence. This software allows investigators to store and track evidence throughout the entire investigative process, ensuring that it is handled properly and not lost or compromised.

Evidence management software has many features that make it an essential tool for law enforcement agencies. For example, it allows investigators to assign and track evidence to specific cases, generate reports, and maintain an audit trail of all actions performed on the evidence.

How Evidence Management Software Helps Solve Cold Cases?

One of the most significant benefits of this software is that it allows investigators to reexamine old cases with fresh eyes. By using this software, investigators can identify patterns in the digital media evidence and find connections between pieces of evidence that were previously overlooked.

For example, evidence inventory software helps investigators identify similarities between different cases that may have been committed by the same individual. It can bring up a list of first-party evidence and third-party evidence for manual review to help investigators identify new witnesses or suspects who were previously overlooked.

Notable Cases Solved with Evidence Management Software

There have been many cases where the evidence software has been instrumental in solving crimes. Here are some notable examples:

The Golden State Killer

The Golden State Killer was a notorious serial killer and rapist who committed crimes throughout California in the 1970s and 1980s. Despite a massive manhunt, the killer was never caught.

However, in 2018, investigators used evidence management software to reexamine the case. By analyzing DNA evidence files, investigators were able to identify a suspect who had never been on their radar before. In 2020, the suspect, Joseph James DeAngelo, pleaded guilty to 13 murders and multiple rapes. Without this access to evidence in digital format, it may have delayed solving the case even longer.

How did law enforcement officers use their evidence collection? A case from the 1970s was re-opened using DNA evidence. At the time of the crimes, DNA testing was not yet available. But with the development of new DNA testing methods and the implementation of an efficient evidence management system, investigators were able to re-test old evidence to identify a suspect. 

By using the evidence management software to keep track of all the different pieces of evidence and their associated DNA results, investigators were able to build a strong case against the suspect, who was eventually convicted.

The Green River Killer

The Green River Killer was a serial killer who murdered at least 49 women in Washington state in the 1980s and 1990s. The case remained unsolved for decades, despite the efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies.

However, in 2001, investigators began using digital files to reexamine the case. A case from the 1980s was re-opened using digital imaging technology. With a new digital evidence management solution that included digital imaging capabilities, law enforcement officers could re-examine old photographs and uncover new details that had been missed before. 

By analyzing DNA evidence, investigators were able to identify a suspect, Gary Ridgway, who had previously been questioned but never charged. Ridgway eventually confessed to the murders and was sentenced to life in prison. The digital evidence management solution helped pinpoint all the types of evidence available to the criminal justice agency.

Cases Even Evidence Software Can’t Help Police Departments Solve

Unfortunately, there are still too many examples of cold cases that cannot be solved because evidentiary documents haven’t stood the test of time. This happens for a number of reasons, including

  • Poor storage conditions, such as physical evidence stored in a damp or humid environment, cause deterioration over time. This is especially problematic for biological evidence like DNA, which breaks down over time and becomes unusable for testing.
  • Break in the secure chain of custody for evidence may have been lost or mishandled over time, making it impossible to connect it to a suspect or use it to build a case. This can be especially challenging for older cases, where evidence may have been handled by multiple people over the years and the chain of custody may be difficult to establish.
  • Passage of too much time. Witnesses may have died or moved away, suspects may have passed away, or the circumstances of the case may have simply faded from memory over time. In these cases, even the best evidence management software in the world may not be enough to bring closure to victims’ families.

While it is always disappointing when a cold case cannot be solved due to issues with evidence, it is important for police forces to continue to use the best available technology and techniques to re-examine old evidence and pursue new leads. Even in cases where the inventory of evidence is no longer usable, investigators may be able to find other ways to build a case and bring justice to victims’ families.

Benefits of Using Evidence Management Software

Evidence management technology providers offer many benefits to law enforcement officials to maintain evidence integrity and chain of custody documentation. Here are some of the most significant advantages:

  • Evidence management software streamlines the process of managing evidence throughout the investigation process, making it more efficient and less time-consuming to look for leads. The software allows criminal investigations to track evidence from collection to storage to analysis, ensuring that nothing is lost or compromised.
  • Evidence management software helps ensure that evidence is handled properly and not contaminated. This software can also help prevent human error by automating tasks such as evidence labeling and chain of custody tracking. Role-based access control guarantees user compliance.
  • Evidence management software improves collaboration. Multiple investigators may work on the same case simultaneously within a centralized database via a cloud-based system, building a complete evidence inventory software.

How To Update an Evidence Management Unit

To transition a traditional evidence management unit to utilizing a faster evidence management technique, law enforcement organizations should take these 6 steps:

  1. Assess current processes: The first step in implementing a successful evidence management system is to assess the current processes and identify areas for improvement in handling various evidence types. This may involve reviewing existing documentation procedures, evaluating storage conditions for evidence, identifying chain of custody issues, and conducting an audit trail of all accesses to evidence.
  2. Choose the right software: There are many different digital evidence management software options available, and it is important to choose the right one for your agency’s needs. Some factors to consider include ease of use, compatibility with existing technology, and the ability to customize the system to meet your agency’s specific requirements. Of course, the law enforcement budget is a primary factor.
  3. Train staff: Once you have chosen an evidence management software system, it is important to plan for user administration and ensure that all staff members are properly trained on how to access user interface integrations. This may involve providing hands-on training sessions, creating user manuals or training videos, and offering ongoing support as needed.
  4. Digitize old records: To fully transition to a digital evidence management system, it is important to digitize all existing records, such as video surveillance, physical inventory, evidence requests, interview room video, body camera footage, audio recordings, handwritten documents, vehicle cameras, mobile devices data, and security camera footage. This may involve scanning paper documents, photographs, and other physical evidence and uploading them to the new system. It may also involve manually inputting data from old records into the new system.
  5. Ensure proper storage: Digital evidence still needs to be stored in a secure and controlled environment, and it is important to ensure that the new system is set up to provide adequate protection for all evidence.
  6. Monitor and maintain: Once the new system is in place, it is important to monitor it regularly to ensure that it is functioning properly and that all staff members are using it correctly. It may also be necessary to make updates or modifications over time to ensure that the system remains effective and up-to-date with the latest technology.

By following these steps, law enforcement organizations can transition from manual documentation to a safer and more accurate digital evidence management system that reduces chain of custody issues and documents all evidence types to be easily accessed and used to build cases against suspects.

With all evidence at your fingertips instantly during a criminal investigation, law enforcement personnel will build stronger cases and bring closure to more victims’ families–even after decades of uncertainty.

Evaluation of Digital Evidence Management Systems

How To Evaluate Digital Evidence Management (DEMS) Systems for Law Enforcement Agencies?

Overview of Digital Evidence Storage in a Cloud-Based System

The #1 job of evidence management technology is to facilitate the automation of tracking and access to evidence in law enforcement agencies or federal agencies. According to Research.com, over 90% of public safety agencies agree that having a centralized evidence database is essential to gain insights and model processes, people, and assets.

Evidence management is critical to the outcome of criminal prosecutions. If it fails at any stage of collection, storage, tracking, or retrieving, then it can compromise the outcome of a prosecution.

Law enforcement officers need a cloud service provider to create an efficient evidence management system for audio files, body camera footage, digital paper files, compliance and security protocols and third-party evidence. Your digital evidence management solution will have a long lifespan. Before selecting a cloud solution provider for your police department, consider these 5 critical factors.

  1. Features and functionality. Know the types or categories of physical and digital evidence that will be collected, stored, analyzed, and reported on as required to meet typical law enforcement agencies’ needs. You want the capacity to share digital evidence assets with other law enforcement officials or agency personnel that meet security guidelines. And you want a way to make electronic copies and backup copies if your system should go down.
  2. Scalability. The system must be able to support growth in agency personnel, accommodate a variety of evidence typically handled by law enforcement, and manage the current volume of digital assets while being able to handle any increased collection in the future. In addition, to ensure a seamless flow of evidence management processes between law enforcement agencies, your digital evidence management system should be able to communicate with other client agencies. This includes the ability to seamlessly exchange data with other cloud services or legacy systems already in place at the organization or across different government entities such as federal agencies.
  3. Integration: The system must be compatible with other tools and systems, such as a centralized database or enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, that law enforcement officials are currently using to ensure seamless integration. Additionally, the digital evidence management system should be easy to connect to the police department’s other technologies. It is important to have an accurate assessment of which systems must be connected in order to create an effective workflow for managing digital evidence. Additionally, organizations should ensure that their systems are adequately secured so that unauthorized access to the data is prevented.
  4. Data Integrity and Security. The evidence software must have security features to protect physical evidence, with tamper-proof and chain-of-custody documentation and tracking. It must be adequately secured in a cloud environment, in accordance with the requirements of Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) baseline security controls, as described by NIST SP 800-53 guidelines for Information Systems and Organizations.
  5. Cost: The total cost of ownership for evidence inventory software must include hardware, software, support, automatic audit trails, authorized user role assignments, and access level. Compare each vendor’s features and benefits to each one of the types of evidence you may document to ensure that law enforcement personnel and the agency get the best value for their investment.

By considering these factors in detail, an organization can make an informed decision about which digital evidence management software is the best fit.

Choosing the Right DEMS Provider

When selecting a vendor, it is important to consider the reliability and consistency of their support and frequency of updates. This is part of the success formula that leads to long-term ROI and agency success.

The cloud solution should be able to track and inventory digital and physical evidence to ensure proper documentation and organization of all evidence. As the number of cases and user role assignments increases, the cloud service provider must be able to handle increased evidence requests without experiencing performance issues.

Future Proofing Automation of Evidence Management

When organizations handle sensitive information, data must be protected from unauthorized access, alteration, and theft. Evidence managers must maintain a tamper-proof chain of custody, ensuring that evidence remains secure and can be used in court if necessary.

The best DEMS solution contains security features such as encryption and access controls. For example, encryption ensures that even if unauthorized users gain access to the data, they will not be able to read or understand it. 

Access controls restrict who has access to the data and what they can do with it, including the changing of user authentication and permissions. Tracking and auditing features, with logging and reporting help agencies detect and respond to any security incidents.

When developing an evidence management system, plan to “future proof” for the long term. This includes preparing to incorporate new technologies, such as body-worn cameras and license plate readers, and adapting to changing regulations or laws.

One essential factor to consider when comparing systems is the software’s ease of use. It should be intuitive and include a user-friendly interface and easy navigation, ensuring it is easy to find the information you need and quickly complete tasks. Ask your technology partner what features other law enforcement officials are requesting.

Software Designed for Police, not the IT Department

Preparing Users for Their New DEMS System

Ideally, your digital evidence management system must integrate seamlessly with other software the organization uses, such as existing case management or records management systems, databases, document management systems, and other software tools. A 360-view and access to all your data and workflows improves efficiency, reduces errors, and enhances the overall accuracy of information.

When evaluating DEMS, make a list of:

  • Other types of systems that should integrate with the evidence management system. Consider reviewing pieces of evidence in your last 10 active cases (including evidence like mobile devices, radio logs, digital files, video surveillance, handwritten documents, and other inventory of evidence collected).
  • The type of integration you require vs. what is offered, such as basic data import/transfer or more advanced features like bi-directional syncing.
  • The adaptability of each active user, the kind of integration each will need, and how much documentation and support each one will require
  • Each user’s current and future needs. For example, if a company plans to order a new case management system, be sure it can be integrated with your DEMS system.
  • Additional costs associated with custom integration.

Training

Training is an essential component of preparing users for their new digital evidence management system. Proper training makes users aware of the features and capabilities of the system so they use it with confidence. It also helps them understand the potential risks associated with the misuse of digital evidence assets, such as data breaches or unauthorized access.

Digital evidence management solution providers typically provide detailed user guides as well as tutorials to demonstrate how to correctly use the system. Organizations may opt to provide more in-depth training sessions with experienced software trainers who can answer questions and provide additional guidance on best practices. 

Such training should cover topics such as effective data management, secure storage methods, and other aspects related to utilizing evidence management systems. By providing comprehensive training for law enforcement personnel, organizations can kick off a heightened user adoption cementing a rapid ROI on the new DEMS system.

Part of evaluating your solution provider should be reviewing how thorough its user manuals, tutorials, and online help is to ensure all active users can quickly and easily learn how to use the system or have ready access to support when encountering issues.

Customer Support

In addition to training, support is an important factor in successful digital evidence management. Effective management of physical and digital evidence requires robust support and assistance from the software provider. 

Organizations must have access to reliable technical assistance to ensure that the system remains functional and secure. Vendors should be available to address any technical issues that may arise during the setup or use of the system, while users should also be able to contact a resource for help with navigating the software. 

Additionally, technology partners should provide support services for evidence requests or other questions related to digital evidence.

Many technology partners offer different levels of support, such as basic technical support or advanced consulting services. As a result, the cost of support services can vary significantly between different systems and should be factored into the overall cost when comparing options. 

Law enforcement budgets are not open-ended, but budgeting for help when you need it is what gives law enforcement organizations their highest ROI on their digital evidence management systems.

Customization

When selecting a vendor, consider what kind of customization you require:

  • How much customization comes with the system and how much more will you need to customize the user interface, add custom fields, and integrate with other cloud systems?
  • How easy will it be to customize, including whether technical expertise is required or if the system has a user-friendly interface? For example, can you customize field names with identifiers known to the department? Can you print reports you need?
  • How much will customization cost? Confirm how much is included in the standard package or if additional charges apply.
  • How much customization support does your vendor offer and what is their availability to adapt the system to your existing processes?

The vendor’s reputation and industry experience are key considerations when comparing evidence management software systems. This includes factors such as the length of time the vendor has been in business and the size and diversity of their customer base. How familiar are they with the agency’s investigative process, common evidence types, and the volume of digital assets collected?

Cost

When assessing evidence management software solutions, consider the total cost of ownership, which encompasses not only the initial cost of the software but also any additional costs for customization, integration, and support services. 

This includes digital evidence documentation, inventory, tracking, physical evidence documentation, inventory, and monitoring. There is typically a “law enforcement budget,” but there is always give and take when working with a technology partner.

Organizations should also consider factors such as the number of users and the storage required. In addition, some systems offer a one-time purchase option with a yearly maintenance fee, while others require a subscription or ongoing licensing payment. 

Finally, the buyer must factor in any additional costs for customization or integration with other systems, including costs associated with integrating the system with existing databases or other software, as well as the cost of tailoring the system to meet specific requirements or needs.

Conclusion

Your evidence management software should never hold you back from protecting public safety, solving cases, serving justice–or wondering if there was a break in the chain of evidence. See the latest technology for preserving evidence integrity by scheduling a 30-minute demo with ERIN Technology’s ERIN7. 

 

What Is Evidence Management Software

What Is Evidence Management Software?

In the fields of Law and Law Enforcement, evidence is a common yet powerful term. Evidence is the key to either conviction or acquittal in the courtroom. Of course, evidence management begins much earlier than that, in the hands of law enforcement officers. Officers must handle evidence carefully and correctly as the first part of an efficient evidence management system.

Traditionally, that system was paper-based and cumbersome. It required many man-hours of cataloging and written documentation. Today, however, evidence management software tool suites are available to streamline this essential process. 

Evidence management software enables police departments to control digital as well as physical evidence paperlessly. These software systems employ the latest barcode technology to initiate and manage the chain of custody. Barcodes eliminate the antiquated need to keep tickler files. Instead, the system sends automated alerts for overdue checkouts and other notifications.

Further, an evidence tracking system uses cloud technology to securely store data and allow users to access the system from the field or anywhere. For example, officers can use smartphones to take images and videos, record and log interviews, and enter driver’s license barcodes into the system from the scene.

Traditional Method for Tracking Evidence

For years, managing evidence was a paper-based process that began at the crime scene. An officer collects a piece of evidence, tags, or places the evidence in a bag. Then, he or she writes information on the bag, such as a case number, date, and address. 

Usually, the item is assigned an item number. By the end of the shift, the officer delivers any evidence to the evidence room or perhaps drops it in a temporary storage locker. In this case, someone from the evidence room can retrieve it later, along with the officer’s handwritten evidence report. A copy of the evidence report should also be attached to the case report.

Next, the evidence custodian receives the evidence. From there, the evidence techs or investigators determine whether lab work is required to process the evidence further. Notifications may need to be made. 

The evidence custodian then assigns a permanent storage location for the item and places it on a shelf or in an appropriate box. The item must be logged into a master logbook. All information must also be logged into a records management system.

As you can see, the traditional method for tracking evidence throughout its lifecycle involves handwritten notes and labels, duplication of effort, manual updates to logbooks, and entries into data management systems. Anyone with experience in the field knows that maintaining a defensible chain of custody is a long-running challenge.

While this method is still used by law enforcement agencies in the United States, it is labor-intensive and subject to a great deal of human error. This is why a digital evidence tracking system is an efficient solution that eliminates redundancies, increases efficiency, and reduces human error potential.

Features of Evidence Management Software

In addition to the apparent time-savings of evidence management software, there are several additional features that come with upgrading to an electronic evidence management system. While most developers aim for these features, it’s wise for you to understand them and target questions to your software provider to ensure they can deliver.

1# Accessibility in the Field

Cloud computing has become an essential element across all industries. Any device or application that runs on cloud architecture is secure, accessible to users anywhere, and cost-effective for the agency to operate. Cloud-based applications can run on just about all mobile devices and on any platform, which means law enforcement personnel can use them in the field rather than waiting to log evidence in the evidence room or at a computer terminal in a fixed location.

Rather than waste valuable time filling out reports, officers can initiate the chain of evidence from the crime scene and return to the field in a matter of minutes rather than hours.

2# Ease of Use

System integrity and cost-effectiveness are essential elements; however, they do little good if the system itself is too complex to use. Most evidence management software is user-friendly and intuitive, which means users can learn it quickly. If it is too complex, law enforcement personnel will waste valuable time correcting errors, searching help files, and grappling over system complexities.

3# Simultaneous Digital and Physical Evidence Management

In the past, digital and physical evidence were managed separately on parallel systems. In recent years, however, courts are recognizing both types of evidence equally. 

So, maintaining them on separate systems no longer makes sense. Both are prioritized equally regarding the chain of custody and evidence integrity. Further, we no longer store digital media on physical CDs or DVDs. Now, they are logged as digital data that displays metadata for ease of identification.

Separating physical and digital data on separate systems calls the chain of custody into question. Evidence management software allows you to support digital and physical evidence concurrently and on a single system, which creates an ironclad chain of custody for your agency.

4# Customizable Data Fields

More than likely, your department has used the same labels, or field names, in your paper-based system for decades, and it makes sense to use the same field names in your evidence management software. Though, consider the fact that some terminology changes over time. 

New terminology is continuously evolving, and you may need new labels and categories in the near future. What we are talking about here is data customization. Law enforcement changes as quickly as the technology that supports it. Thus, your evidence management system must be able to adapt with it.

While the data collection fields within your system are adequate today, they may be obsolete tomorrow. Your tracking system should have a customization feature that enables your system administrator to modify or add new data fields as needed. The system should also archive outdated fields rather than delete them because deleting fields can lead to a loss of old data.

5# Integrate with Existing Platforms

Software integration means being able to move to different platforms seamlessly without having to start over when it comes to installation and implementation. What’s more, integration is essential for evidence tracking solutions. Your systems must be able to communicate with one another.

Most evidence software developers are aware of industry standards and design their systems to be compatible with supporting systems. The system should also be able to work with depreciation data, related accounting information, audits, and other variables within your interconnected systems.

6# Multiple Security Protocols

It almost goes without saying that all sensitive data stored using the evidence management software must be highly secure. Whether your agency stores its information in the cloud or an on-site datacenter, that information is crucial to all your processes. Even as your department or agency maintains evidence to prosecute crimes, it is vulnerable to compromise due to cybercrimes.

Cybercrime is increasing at an alarming rate, and any data management system provider must be vigilant when it comes to data security. 

Your evidence tracking system provider should employ multiple military security protocols to protect your data. In addition, they should continually analyze their own security by testing procedures and hiring independent firms to employ hacking methods to determine the strength of their security defenses.

Also, the tracking system should be able to function correctly with security protocols in place. For example, if a user makes a mistake while entering data, he or she should be able to correct it without incident. Though, the system should record all revisions in order to maintain overall system integrity. No tracking software should allow users to make changes without proper notation.

7# Scalability as Your Agency Grows

Most evidence management software is designed to grow with its clients. Meaning, the system is easily scalable to expand as needed to support a growing number of end-users. 

Agencies grow steadily, and sometimes a high-profile case means the number of personnel spikes quickly. Your evidence tracking system must be able to keep up with the added load. Otherwise, users will incur the inconvenience of system crashes and loss of business processes.

8# Efficient Use of Resources

The primary goal of moving away from the antiquated, manual paper-based method for evidence management is to increase efficiency. Simply moving to a software management system will save time. 

However, there are additional time-saving features built into such a system. Evidence management systems allow you to track large bodies of evidence using a single solution rather than multiple software applications.

The integration and compatibility listed in the previous sections mean that users can enter data once, access it through multiple interfaces, and run needed reports without importing or re-entering data. You reduce menial tasks for your officers and other personnel, and you can track larger volumes of evidence data using fewer resources.

The system’s automated alert feature can send alerts to personnel. For example, when a closed case is archived, evidence custodians are notified and can dispose of or archive the physical evidence as required. They will know which cases to archive, which will eliminate the all-too-familiar backlog in evidence rooms.

9# Affordability of Evidence Management Software

Pricing is a factor when it comes to selecting an evidence management system. Keep in mind that determining your budget should also include accounting for the savings in man-hours and other resources that come with moving to a more efficient system. How much will it cost to continue without adding a software system? 

If your current solution lacks the customization, automation, and security features offered by an evidence management system, you may already be spending more than the cost of acquiring and implementing the software.

Reliable software providers offer clear pricing plans with no hidden fees. They will be eager to answer all your questions as well as offer bundle pricing if you need multiple features.

10# List of Updates

Due to the critical importance of evidence tracking software and the continually evolving technology surrounding it, your software provider should upgrade continuously to remain effective and competitive. Your provider should have a list of detailed improvements going back at least three years.

While this at first seems counter to “ease of use,” remember that users can expect ongoing training for any software application they use. 

For example, each time Microsoft Office rolls out a significant update, users receive a quick tutorial when they open an Office application that goes over the new features.

Evidence tracking applications are critical to maintaining the chain of evidence. Updates are essential in this regard.

Conclusion

Think about this: Every minute an officer spends documenting an evidence report is a minute he or she cannot be in the field. The old way of paper-based reports is time-consuming and leaves a wide margin for error. 

An evidence management software system allows the officer to tag and log evidence into the system from the field. Further, the system aids in flagging and correcting human input errors on the spot.

Once the evidence reaches the evidence room, personnel there receive a properly tagged and logged evidence inventory. They can then supplement the record with the required inventory information, creating instant collaboration between personnel in the field and the evidence room.

From a legal standpoint, this creates a fortified chain of custody that holds up in a courtroom. As we discussed, this applies to digital as well as physical evidence. You no longer need to convert photos and videos to a disk for storage on a separate system. 

Such files can be stored in the same system as the barcoded physical items, with all data being stored in the cloud for instant access as well as backup protection.

At ERIN Technology, we provide evidence management software tools to help you improve your workflow for managing evidence and related assets through an easy, user-friendly process. Our system provides the first line of defense for the chain of custody and evidence integrity. 

Ours is a fully secure and industry-compliant solution for law enforcement agencies. We ensure efficient, accurate collection and storage of physical and digital evidence. Further, our system solidifies chain-of-command, manages convenience copies of forms and reports, metadata analysis, and reporting.

Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive evidence tracking solution.

Why Cloud-Based Evidence Management is Ideal

10 Reasons Why Cloud-Based Evidence Management is Ideal?

Cloud-based evidence management is more secure, easily accessible, and backed up in multiple locations. Learn more about the benefits here.

Is your paper and digital evidence starting to stack up? Then you might want to consider an alternate storage method.

While some evidence simply has to be kept in its original physical state, other files can be converted to electronic formats. This eliminates the need for piles and folders full of paper.

Simply storing files on a computer isn’t enough, though. You run the risk of losing evidence if you do it that way.

Cloud-based evidence management is much more effective. Keep reading to find out why.

The Reasons Why Cloud-based Evidence Management is Awesome:

1. Better Security

The evidence you’ve found and tracked down, needs to be kept safe and organized.

Court cases have been lost due to mishandling of evidence. Plus, if you don’t take the time to organize and protect your evidence, you may just find it missing when you need it.

Cloud storage offers high-security evidence storage that is much better than storing lots of evidence on a shelf.

When you store evidence in the cloud, it’s stored digitally and is always available to authorized users.

But hacks keep happening right? So how does cloud storage secure your data?

Since hackers continue to try to steal data, the good guys are hard at work too. Technology updates and constant monitoring helps prevent data loss.

2. Easily Accessible Anywhere

Have you ever wished you had a specific case, or piece of evidence available to you, no matter where you are? If so, cloud storage is perfect for you.

Evidence that’s stored in the cloud can be accessed by you in any location, as long as you have an internet connection and a browser. This means you can pull something up on your phone when you’re away from the office, or look through evidence on your computer at work.

Cloud storage offers access flexibility you just can’t get any other way. This flexibility doesn’t alter security, though. You’ll have access, and those who shouldn’t, won’t.

3. Multiple Backup Locations

One way to prevent data loss is through regular backups. These backups make sure you have your important files kept in more than one place.

You can backup your data to a physical location, but using the cloud is better. The best option is to use multiple methods for storing your most important files.

Storing in the cloud along with different physical locations means you won’t have to worry about crashes. If one storage location goes down, you’ll have the other one.

More than having multiple backup locations, cloud storage offers you an entirely different type of storage. This offers greater protection from data loss.

4. Compliance Options

Since you’re working with sensitive data, you must follow all compliance rules. Cloud storage does offer compliance options. You’ll just need to make sure you choose an option that fits.

Check all requirements to make sure your online storage choice matches all compliance rules.

Don’t only focus on that, though. Choose an option that gives you all the tools you need to access your data properly, as well as remain compliant.

5. Budget-Friendly

There are a couple ways to utilize storage of evidence data. First, you can pay a company up front for the software and any equipment you’ll need. Once you have those things, you’ll host everything at your site. 

Or you can have someone else do your hosting for you. Buy storage as needed ,and don’t worry about housing any software or server hardware. Just utilize the service and know your evidence is securely protected.

Having a company host your data and software for you offer a more affordable option. You’ll pay month by month, where you’ll have to put down a large lump sum if you want to host your storage in-house, and then pay an annual maintenance fee.

6. Readily Available

Not only can you access your storage from multiple devices and wherever you have internet and a browser, but you can also access it whenever you want. You won’t have to wait for a company to be operating to see your data.

Do you need emergency access at 2:31 a.m.? No problem. Simply access your cloud storage and you’re in.

7. Always Up-to-Date

When hosting your own data, you’re in charge of making sure that all important software and hardware updates happen. Updates are important for maintaining security and ease of use.

Cloud storage that’s hosted elsewhere will automatically be updated when needed. You won’t have to oversee this at all. Instead, you’ll just have the convenience of knowing that everything is up to date.

8. Options That Fit

If you’re thinking that cloud storage isn’t as flexible as choosing your own physical storage, think again. There are many options when it comes to storing things in the cloud.

If you don’t need a ton of space, you don’t have to pay for a ton of space. Simply choose a company that has the options you need and you’ll be good to go.

Need to change your storage amount later, or the number of people who have access? No problem. You’ll be able to do it quickly.

9. Free up Storage Space

You have a lot to work with when you’re cracking a case. Help things go smoothly by eliminating piles of paper and evidence.

Cloud storage keeps your files and evidence off your desk and out of your file cabinets. This leaves you more room to work and gives much better retrieval of information.

10. Reap Benefits Instantly

Whenever your cloud storage provider has an update for security or just a cool new feature, you won’t have to wait for it. Instead, they’ll simply roll it out.

This saves you time and money since you don’t have to spend time visiting stores or talking to customer service people. New features and updates will show up in your storage automatically. This keeps everything convenient for you.

Cloud-Based Evidence Management is the Way to Go

There are some benefits to storing evidence in a physical location in-house But there are more reasons to go with cloud-based evidence management.

Cloud-based storage frees up your space, time, and money, making sure you can optimize all of those things. Try it out to see how it can improve your operations.

Want to see exactly how we can help? Contact us today!