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THE CLERICAL SIDE OF INVESTIGATIONS After case evidence is collected, it needs to be shared with the prosecutor. This part of the process, Guy says, is the most clerical of all. Highly trained investigators often spend hours copying case file information onto CDs, DVDs and thumb drives, and hand delivering it to prosecutors, who then scan, copy or upload these same files into their own separate digital systems. The unnecessary expense and time consumed in this process is, in a word, astounding. A next-generation DEM system helps bring digital evidence sharing into the digital age. Investigators can easily share evi- dence with prosecutors simply by emailing a link to a read-only copy of the digital case file through a secure portal. The DA, in turn, can share this same case evidence with a defense attorney in a similar manner. The system automatically tracks who ac- cessed what and when, for chain of custody. In an age when cases have been frequently derailed over questionable disclosure practices and missing evidence, a next- generation DEM not only ensures the integrity of evidence within the justice system, it also ensures the integrity of the overall system of justice, by standardizing the evidence sharing process and ensuring its predictable and consistent performance. 4. INVESTIGATION PROCESS AUTOMATION "Investigators know that every investigation is a race against time,” said Dvorak. “Leads grow cold, and in certain cases, time can make the difference between putting offenders behind bars or leaving them free to commit more crimes.” By providing a single system for the investigator to do their work, and automating the processes around collecting, analyz- ing and sharing digital evidence, next-generation DEM solutions can provide significant time and cost savings. As importantly, they can also increase the likelihood of earlier charging decisions and guilty pleas. By automatically correlating and pulling relevant 911 calls and body-worn video into cases, a next-generation DEM solution can eliminate long wait times for evidence, and hours wasted phoning, emailing and filling out forms. This can be especially helpful in domestic violence cases where body-worn video and 911 recordings are crucial to assembling the picture of what hap- pened. Under normal circumstances, it can take days to receive requested video and audio recordings. During that time, an of- fender is often released. Having access to this evidence while the offender is in custody, and being able to replay it during an inter- view, can significantly enhance the investigator’s ability to obtain an early charging decision (before an offender is released). 5. MAKING PROPRIETARY VIDEO PLAYABLE CCTV has long been important to investigations. But the lack of industry standards in CCTV has turned proper recovery of digital video evidence into a research project. Proprietary codecs are needed to make videos playable, and they can be hard to find and obtain. To make matters worse, if a case is dormant over a period of time, or office computers are replaced, an investigator may need to start the process of searching for codecs to convert the video all over again.
“It’s a time and cost problem,” said Dvorak. “ In a larger department, an investigator may have a video specialist on staff, but they’re not going to be on staff in the middle of the night. Or the investigator may have to wait for someone in an entirely differ- ent department to send the video out to a private vendor. And if an investigator has to get help from another IT department in the jurisdiction, his case is probably not going to be their top priority.” A next-generation DEM offers a better way, by automatically transcoding video into a standard format that can be played on any desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. “The solution creates a working copy of the video, and main- tains the original version to insure the integrity of the evidence,” said Dvorak. “And if a file ever needs to be replayed years down the road, they don’t need to go hunting for the codec. The file opens and plays immediately; and when shared with prosecution, they can play the media as well.” 6. VISUALIZATION TOOLS PUT EVIDENCE IN CONTEXT In the old days, investigators used push pins to plot details and locations of a crime on a map. Today, crime recreations are a whole lot more complex and difficult to visualize, thanks in large part to many new sources of digital evidence. There could be hours of video footage from different CCTV camera vantage points, audio recordings, body-worn footage, physical evidence, and stacks of crime scene photos. At some point it has to be sorted and put into context based on time sequence and location. This is the only way to tell the complete story of what happened, who was involved, where and when it occurred, and why. Next-generation DEM visualization tools enable investiga- tors to view evidence in context and in meaningful ways – for example on timelines and maps. “The solution gives investigators tools to make sense of what they have,” said Guy. “It will geolocate all of the digital evidence that they’ve collected. It also then allows the investigator to syn- chronize and play back audio and video evidence on a timeline to reconstruct the entire incident.” 7. WORKFLOW AUTOMATION AND INFORMATION ALERT- ING In the early stages of a major case, investigators need to run every single lead to the ground. When there are many moving parts, it’s challenging to keep track of everything. “ An investigation is a very fluid process. You’re working as a team and people are constantly seizing evidence, adding evi- dence, analyzing things, sending things, bringing things to the lab, getting reports completed; it’s difficult to keep track of all these changes to your case, using regular follow up methods like phone or email,” said Dvorak. A next-generation DEM automates the tracking of evidence requests, and notifies investigators when requests are fulfilled. This makes it easier for an investigator to stay on top of active cases, and not lose track of evidence or leads. It’s also helpful from a discovery standpoint. The investigator is always aware when evidence is added to a case. The investigator is also alerted
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