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Why It’s Time for Evidence Documentation Methods to Receive an Update 

Crime scene documentation and evidence documentation is nothing new within the criminal justice system. Since the late 19th century, investigators across the globe have implemented crime scene photography to preserve evidence. Photography revolutionized evidence and crime scene preservation, which were, and still are, accompanied by sketches and physical evidence.  

Over a century has passed since then, and technology has advanced rapidly. Many methods of crime scene documentation have not.

Everyday citizens can use the latest iPhone model to instantly share, stream, and spread information. Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors rely on physical methods of evidence documentation. This could include the means of USB drives, CDs, and printed documents.  

If your average person can easily share photos and memes through cloud software, why don’t police officers and prosecutors have access to these same technologies that are reflective of the 21st century?  

As the public demands increased transparency from prosecutors and law enforcement agencies alike, it is more crucial than ever that evidence is preserved as accurately as possible. Through updated technology, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors can more efficiently organize information and effectively streamline documentation. 

Why Digital PCMS?

Why use digital and integrated evidence documentation software (versus physical documentation)? Law enforcement officials often must enter digital evidence into multiple systems since their existing software and processes are not integrated. Legacy technology and evidence management often do not keep all evidence organized within the same, searchable database. Digital, Integrated Evidence Documentation Software saves law enforcement agencies’ and prosecutors’ valuable time and allows them to focus on the most important, pressing tasks at hand, such as protecting their local communities. 

Now, let’s examine some common methods of crime scene documentation while comparing older and newer approaches. 

Digital Evidence Documentation vs. Physical

What is a Record Management System or Prosecutor Case Management System? 

As described above, many prosecution teams and law enforcement agencies still rely on outdated, physical crime scene documentation methods, such as physical binders and manila folders—not to mention the USB drives and CDs we’ve already listed. Not only are these methods tedious, but they are also easily misplaced, disorganized, and require physical transportation. Printing and transporting these documents also contribute to added costs and time. 

Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors alike can use digital systems to electronically organize files, documents, and pertinent information. Compared to physical files and information, digital Record Management Systems (RMS) and Prosecutor Case Management Systems (PCMS) provide the potential to share information across jurisdictions, from agency to agency, and even across continents. This is crucial in providing full-scope, accurate information and in the past has been a dangerous barrier.  

Now, let’s better understand the different functionalities of RMSs and PCMSs. 

The Necessity of Digital RMS for Law Enforcement Agencies 

As we briefly described above, it is vital that law enforcement agencies share information across jurisdictions.  

As stated in an article from Police1, “Perpetrators don’t care about county or city lines when they commit crimes.”  

Without updated and digital RMS, law enforcement agencies lack access to vital information that could potentially save the lives of both citizens and officers.  

The U.S. Department of Justice describes that “Calls for service records and investigative, arrest, criminal identification, detention, and even civil records hold information that by themselves mean little; however when pieced together with information from other jurisdictions, the result can help with all levels of investigations and aid in safeguarding the Nation.”  

RMS, such as CivicRMS, allow for outcomes such as increasing apprehension (the arrest, capture, or taking into custody of a person) rates and reduced victimization through proactivity, among numerous other benefits.

Outdated methods of evidence documentation, such as physical files in banker boxes, make transportation and chain-of-evidence challenging.

National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) Compliance 

As law enforcement agencies move toward NIBRS compliance, RMSs must provide NIBRS-compliant reporting. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, NIBRS was created to better measure and estimate crime at the federal level by capturing detailed data about the characteristics of criminal incidents including a broad array of offenses; types and amount of property lost; demographic information about victims, offenders, and persons arrested; and what type of weapon, if any, was used in the incident.  

Some other key aspects of NIBRS include the ability to use standardized data to compare crime across jurisdictions and for strategic analysis at various levels (such as local, state, and national). Additionally, NIBRS creates profiles of victims, offers insight into accidents involving multiple offenses, and collects data on 52 crimes across 24 offense categories.  

An RMS, such as CivicRMS, helps streamline reporting, which maximizes officers’ time on patrol. Alongside NIBRS compliance, CivicRMS maintains reporting compliance with other local, state, and federal organizations. Additionally, CivicRMS allows users to search hundreds of millions of records in less than a second.  

To learn more about CivicRMS, check out our previous blogs on 4 Features to Look for When Shopping for Police Technology, Why Technology is Becoming Crucial in Law Enforcement, and 5 Reasons to Combine CAD with a Quality RMS.  

The Necessity of Digital PCMS for Prosecutors 

PCMSs optimize, organize, and track a prosecutor’s work throughout the entirety of the prosecution process.  

In an article from SEARCH, the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) explains that “An ideal PCMS…efficiently streamlines a prosecutor office’s capability to collect, store, retrieve, edit, archive, and view information, records, documents, or files required of prosecutors to fulfill their responsibilities. Additionally, it may support the automated exchange of data with justice partner agencies to support investigations or prosecutions.”

Used by prosecutors, solicitor generals, and state attorneys, PCMS, like CivicCase, facilitates quicker case handling through storage, management, and distribution of all assets connected to a case. Police depend on prosecutors almost as much as prosecutors depend on them. The integration of police records management systems with prosecution case management shares data seamlessly, reducing duplicate data and improving agency efficiency when staff can feel overworked with administrative tasks. When prosecution and law enforcement spend time sending cases back for further investigation or piecing together further case-related documents in an outdated fashion, the impact is a slowed response to general public safety. 

Case management, when combined with document management like CivicDocs, helps to preserve the document visibility from discovery and better tracks and shares the digital files, lightening the load of the previously mentioned manila folders and banker boxes that prosecutors would bring to and from the courtroom.  

An attorney/prosecutor/courtroom official uses digital tools for evidence documentation. In this image, a man sits behind a laptop working. In front of the laptop, on the man's desk, sits a gavel, representative of the justice system.

This type of evidence documentation software, like CivicEye’s CivicDocs, centralizes documents into a searchable, streamlined database. These digital files, unlike their physical counterparts, cannot be misplaced and can be instantly shared from the prosecutor to the defense team. Additionally, users can instantly upload batch files while still maintaining the original file material. CivicDocs also allows users to easily edit the viewership of certain docs to maintain confidentiality. 

Additional Advanced Features of PCMSs 

Audit Logs and Document Review Software for Electronic Evidence 

With outdated, physical materials, it can be easy to dispute which parties have/have not had access to specific information, files, and documents. CivicDocs’s document review software for electronic evidence issues accurate audit logs that document who has accessed specific files, how often, and at what time and location (through their IP address). The audit log also lists which files have been printed and/or saved by who and where. Document verification tools provide processes that show if files have been manipulated.  

Sharing Discovery Between Defense Attorneys and Prosecutors 

The discovery process is a legal process that largely focuses on the exchange of data and case information between parties to a case. These parties “disclose relevant information about the case to each other and must include all information that is not otherwise ‘non-discoverable’” (NDAA). 

During the discovery process, prosecutors must provide all information or evidence they intend to use against a defendant during trial. This information could include crime scene evidence, witness statements, law enforcement statements, defendant statements, police reports, disclosures, and more. Additionally, the discovery is required to include all exculpatory evidence (evidence, such as a statement, that is favorable to the defendant and tends to excuse, justify, or absolve the alleged fault or guilt of a defendant).  

Prosecutors and defense teams can dispute when and how they received specific documentation, but evidence documentation software easily allows users to share information, even with those outside of the software’s subscription. Prosecutors and defense teams alike can upload their files quickly and efficiently, adhering to all required aspects of the discovery process.  

CivicCase, CivicEye’s advanced end-to-end legal case management software, allows each party to access forms and information through a custom portal. This allows individuals to complete their personal tasks and expedite the case’s progression. The software translates complex forms into interactive ones, and virtually any paper or electronic form can integrate into the system. Additionally, the software features flexible form validation, interactive content elements, and pixel-perfect form rendering to match originals. Like CivicRMS and CivicDocs, CivicCase operates through a secure cloud network, which means it is accessible anywhere and at any time.  

Preserving Chain-of-Evidence 

Like other important files and documents, updated crime scene technology can better preserve chain of evidence—a process and record that shows who obtained the evidence; where and when the evidence was obtained; who secured the evidence; and who had control or possession of the evidence.  

Prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, and criminal justice agencies work together to manage evidence, and in certain scenarios, prosecutors must maintain control of evidence. CivicDocs’s features provide accurate audit logs (as described above) and clearly document the trail of data exchange. 

Modern software like CivicDocs is not only secure but also can help keep your work within both state and federal compliance. Alongside CivicDocs, CivicCase works to provide other case management features such as digital form creation, that integrates virtually any paper or electronic form into the system, allows for flexible form validation, includes interactive content elements, and provides pixel-perfect form rendering to match originals. 

Information can be easily exchanged digitally through unique portals, safely and securely through cloud-based evidence documentation platforms like CivicEye's CivicCase and CivicDocs. In this image, three female attorneys examine information on a computer screen intently. Behind them, an American flag hangs loosely.

How To Integrate Evidence Documentation Software Seamlessly into Your Current Work 

CivicEye’s digital system of evidence documentation, PCMS, and RMS can easily integrate with one another. This makes the transfer of data both easy and secure. Additionally, CivicEye offers 24/7, 365 support, alongside other helpful training to acclimatize new users. 

Contact us today if you would like to learn more about CivicEye’s products and how they can revolutionize your public safety agency. 

Get in touch

To learn more about CivicRMS, CivicDocs, and/or CivicCase and schedule a demo, click here. 

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