The Benefits of an Evidence Management System with Mobile Capabilities
Shortly after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the FBI put out a tweet asking for “digital media depicting rioting or violence in and around the U.S. Capitol.” In return, they received over 100,000 pieces of digital evidence to aid in their investigation.
You’re aware of the necessity of an investigation and digital evidence management system, especially as cell phones, body-worn cameras, professional cameras, police car camera systems, and video surveillance cameras become increasingly integral to criminal investigations.
As your department continues to increase its dependency on digital evidence, are they also keeping up with the technological needs that come along with it? If your investigation and evidence management system doesn’t also include mobile capabilities designed to streamline processes and mitigate risks, you’re still opening your investigation up to missed connections, inadmissible evidence, and incorrect data.
What's Really at Risk?
There are a few major risks to consider if you’re using the native apps on a mobile device or more manual methods to record evidence, interview witnesses, and document the scene around you:
1) You miss info at the scene
When you’re unable to securely send video and images immediately to approved parties who aren’t on the scene and instead have to describe what you’re seeing over the phone, you risk other parties missing important details they may need to help support your investigation.
2) Your digital evidence is inadmissible
The agency has no control over digital files when they’re taken with a native mobile camera application. Video and images sit in the camera’s gallery, and without a full audit of who’s accessed the phone or any other digital data, you run the risk of breaking the chain of custody or having evidence ruled as inadmissible. Furthermore:
- There’s no way to tell who’s accessed the phone or any files
- Digital data is not encrypted
- Even if you delete the file, it’s still there on the cloud
3) Your physical evidence can lack credibility
When you’re unable to take photos and notes to show and describe the physical evidence before collection – starting the chain of custody -- you risk questions about the state of evidence as it was found on the scene.
4) Your phone becomes part of the discovery process
If you use your personal or department-issued cell phone without mobile software that links directly to your digital evidence management system, you risk making the phone part of the discovery process.
How Can Your Investigation Benefit?
Now that you’re aware of what you’re risking when you don’t have an evidence system that incorporates mobile capabilities, it’s important to understand what you and your investigation gain with them.
Guarantee the Chain of Custody of your Digital Evidence
The best mobile software won’t require the use of native apps like the phone gallery or voice memo to collect investigation information. Rather, everything will be stored within the app – eliminating the risk that:
- Any photos or videos end up sitting in the multimedia gallery
- You’re unable to tell who accessed them
- They’re not encrypted
- Even if the file is deleted, it’s still there on the phone.
The app should also encrypt digital data on your device and while the data is in transit, and track anyone who accesses, edits, or deletes any multimedia within the case management system.
Security features like these should provide a record of who accessed (or tried and failed to access) what and at what time, ensuring complete chain of custody for all digital evidence. They also help ensure the digital evidence on your phone is safe if anything should happen to your mobile device.
When you’re able to ensure all digital evidence is handled in a forensically sound way from the very beginning of the investigation, you eliminate the risk evidence could be ruled as inadmissible because you can’t prove a clear chain of custody.
Save Time by Streamlining Processes
The right mobile application will provide an all-in-one integrated solution allows you to:
- Document crime scenes
- Dictate notes and evidence descriptions
- Record interviews
- Convert photos of handwritten documents into text
- Transcribe audio and video
- Write coherent field narratives
- Provide the public and other stakeholders with the ability to upload their own digital evidence
Any notes or evidence can be easily captured and stored in the evidence system for immediate access by approved parties.
To enhance convenience and accountability, look for a system that allows you to assign all data to an existing case created within the system to ensure you’re able to start the chain of custody at the crime scene and you don’t misplace notes or evidence that are essential to the case.
When you’re able to record all notes, statements, and evidence at the scene, it also helps eliminate the need for officers to return to the station to fill out evidence-related paperwork, allowing them to spend more time in the field.
Reduce the Risk of Missing Info on the Scene
With mobile capabilities, you longer need to describe what you’re seeing over the phone or worry about sending images or video to another officer that may be unencrypted and, therefore, unsafe to send. With the right system in place, any digital evidence, images, and notes uploaded to the mobile app are immediately accessible by approved parties from virtually any location.
These capabilities help ensure you don’t waste time going back to get additional information you may have originally missed while on the scene. It also helps mitigate the risk that you miss immediately following up with essential witnesses, surveillance videos, or other information vital to your investigation.
Enhance the Credibility of Physical Evidence Collection
We’ve touched on the importance of a mobile app that handles your digital evidence in a forensically sound way that proves chain of custody has been maintained. It’s just as important that your mobile app provides the same assurances for physical evidence. With an evidence solution that allows you to securely take images of how the evidence lies and the state of the evidence, users can start creating a chain of custody before collection. Look for a system that also allows you to tag physical evidence and add any necessary notes including descriptions and case numbers.
Are You Ready to Embrace a Solution that Supports Every Step of Your Investigation?
Your ability to manage evidence and digital data from virtually anywhere can make all the difference when every moment counts in your investigation. Outdated methods or those that aren’t connected to your evidence management solution can put you at risk of missed connections, lost or inadmissible evidence, questionable chain of custody, or incorrect data.
Omnigo is here to support your needs with our industry-leading Investigation and Case Management solution with Digital Evidence, Physical Evidence, and our mobile app, which provides an all-in-one integrated solution to document crime scenes, dictate notes and evidence descriptions, record interviews, and automatically capture and store evidence for immediate access by approved parties.
For more than 20 years, Omnigo software solutions have been the preferred choice for law enforcement, education, healthcare, gaming, hospitality, and corporate enterprises. Currently, Omnigo’s solutions are used by over 2,000 customers in 20 different countries. At Omnigo, we’re committed to helping customers secure their organizations’ property, control operational costs, and ensure the safety of the general public.
We believe our customers deserve the best support available to protect their people, assets, and brand. We also understand how challenging it can be to protect the community without the proper resources. We’re here to arm users with the best tools in the industry. With a team that includes former law enforcement, first responders, and other public safety professionals, we’re uniquely qualified to understand exactly what our customers need to protect their community.
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