3 must-have functions of a digital evidence management system in corrections
The right DEMS can improve the management and sharing of critical evidence, including bodycam video, for more successful investigations
Sponsored by Axon
By Corrections1 BrandFocus Staff
Today’s correctional facilities are awash in evidentiary data, ranging from incident reports and drug tests to fixed-video footage and bodycam recordings. Every day more information gets added to this institutional database, and every day more people are demanding access to this information to investigate incidents and prosecute wrongdoers. Not having an effective digital evidence management system to index, store and access it all is like trying to search the web without Google.
“It’s not uncommon for a large correctional system to have as many as 10,000 open cases,” said Tom Herzog, retired deputy commissioner for the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, and now president/CEO of Tom Herzog Consulting. “Without a digital evidence management system in place to support organized ingest, indexing, storage, linkage to related files, keyword searches and authorized access control, keeping track of evidence can be an operational nightmare for corrections officials.”
One such digital evidence management system, or DEMS, is Axon Evidence. Made by Axon, a manufacturer of smart weapons (e.g. TASER), specialized video cameras and public safety software, Axon Evidence is a cloud-based DEMS that keeps evidentiary data safe, centralized and searchable.
Wide-ranging data needs
A correctional facility’s digital evidence management needs are as wide-ranging and varied as the society that lives outside its walls.
“Every illegal activity that occurs in the outside world happens within a correctional facility, be it accidents, assaults, questionable use of force, smuggling and theft,” said Herzog. “The digital evidence linked to these events is vital for investigating what took place and dealing with them fairly, and for pursuing prosecutions when they are called for. In many jurisdictions, correctional systems will aggressively pursue prosecutions of individuals who are repeat offenders, and sometimes first-time offenders as well.”
The old-fashioned system of information silos – bodycam videos in this database, incident reports in that one, and so on – just won’t cut it anymore. Investigators need to access all related incident files with a simple search.
This is why an integrated DEMS built on a solid software platform that can grow with the organization’s needs is a must for correctional institutions. Nothing less can keep up.
“Having an enterprise-class platform is extraordinarily important to handle the volume of evidentiary files within a correctional facility,” said Herzog. “A cloud-based platform like Axon Evidence has the functionality and features needed for effective digital evidence management, and it’s not constrained by the internal infrastructure issues oftentimes associated with correctional computer systems. Being in the cloud, Axon Evidence can expand as much as needed to keep up with demand.”
3 must-have DEMS features
Correctional institutions need to ensure that their DEMS provides three key features:
1. The first necessary feature is efficient, easy-to-use indexing and accessing of digital evidence files using keywords and a web-style search engine. This should enable online searching using a number of parameters and metadata tags, including time, date, person, location and incident type. As well, the DEMS should support the input of files in any format from any device, so that everything entered by corrections officers is properly stored in one place.
“The volume of data generated by a correctional institution is extraordinary, especially since there’s usually three active shifts a day,” said Herzog. “Having the ability to reliably index, store and then search for the data you need using keywords is a must.”
2. The second must-have DEMS features is sophisticated workflow management. This includes the ability to play back multiple audio and video formats on a single platform, and to place related images and videos side-by-side in a clickable gallery for investigators to access.
The DEMS workflow management system should be able to sift through disparate video files based on time, date and location. It should also allow investigators to add annotations to the videos as needed, and to search through workflows using keywords to find the most pertinent, actionable information.
“Being able to annotate and link files is important for documenting cases, and for using this information effectively in investigations and prosecutions,” said Herzog. “When Axon got into the digital evidence management business, they worked with law enforcement agencies and with public safety professionals to get their workflow management system right.”
3. The third necessity is easy and secure digital evidence sharing, whether between institutions and management in a specific corrections department, or with other law enforcement agencies and prosecutors for court. Such evidence sharing has to be easy for the user but also secure against unauthorized access and theft.
“The expectation these days is that digital evidence gathered by correctional institutions is shareable, with a consistent chain of custody that ensures its viability in court,” said Herzog. “This is a function that Axon Evidence has been built to provide.”
The right DEMS makes life easier for corrections professionals
Whether a correctional facility choose Axon Evidence or another DEMS, it is vital that they do their homework so that the system they implement solves evidentiary problems rather than making them worse.
“It’s like anything else with software,” said Herzog. “The right choice makes your life a lot simpler and a lot easier.”
Learn more about Axon Evidence.