When it comes to storing and sharing case evidence, we’ve truly come a long way.
In the past, evidence storage mostly involved bagging and tagging physical evidence in lockers in a secure location for future use. Digital evidence was stored on floppy disks, VHS tapes and even cassettes to share with the court and partner agencies on a regular basis. “In 22 years we’ve really changed our technology. When I started, we had a little pocket recorder that used a little micro-cassette recorder that we would pop that little cassette tape out and put that into evidence” recalls Lieutenant Don Peck from the Nampa Idaho Police Department.
Nowadays, Law enforcement agencies are expected to store an ever-increasing amount of digital evidence. Industry experts estimate that 80% of evidence involved in an investigation is now digital. With the introduction of body-worn cameras, in-car videos to cell phone evidence, digital reports, and emerging technologies, the amount of digital evidence continues to grow both in format and size, and the need for streamlined systems to manage data captured by these disparate devices is becoming paramount.
When we recently polled our webinar audience we found that 49% of those law enforcement professionals surveyed said that they are not currently using any Digital Evidence Management Systems (DEMS) at this particular time. It’s clear that agencies are on the fence when it comes to the ideal solution to meet their growing data demands. An increasing wave of agencies have identified Cloud-based DEMS as the best solution while others utilize on-premise storage. Before making the migration to a Cloud-based system, every agency should carefully examine their current digital storage environment in addition to the changing needs of their community. Here are 6 clear signs it’s time to upgrade your agency to a Cloud-based DEMS.
1. Rising storage costs
Data Storage is expensive. Now more than ever, agencies are capturing larger digital data that becomes more costly to store. Lieutenant Peck shares this experience at his agency stating “Data is getting so large. I was just up in our server room this morning going through with our I.T. Folks solutions because we’re running out of server rack space and looking at ‘okay, do we bring in another server for this other function? Where can we start to save some space in our server room so that we have room for the stuff that we need to have. Servers are expensive”’. Cloud Based DEMS Solutions remove the cost of constantly replacing storage devices and maintaining a server since data is securely stored on a remote server managed by a separate entity. Cloud-based solutions on the market provide agencies the option of paying a fixed recurring subscription fee to store digital evidence in the cloud. Utility, Inc. currently offers clients 100% free unlimited data storage with its POLARIS™ by Utility DEMS solution (formerly AVailWeb).
2. Data Security Threats
Storing case evidence on premise exposes your agency to major external and internal security risks. Hackers are increasingly targeting Law Enforcement with the intent of leaking evidence for malicious purposes. Cloud Based DEMS are designed to provide data security built with encryption. As soon as it detects that the servers housing the data have been damaged, another copy will be generated in the cloud and saved to an additional separate location. These solutions are also secure compared to onsite storage vulnerable to severe weather or other acts of nature that can occur at any time. Case Evidence is not only safe from external threats but also from internal threats as well. Critical data can easily be tampered with by your team unintentionally or even by bad characters in your organization. Cloud-Based solutions improve security and accountability by providing a secure login for each officer offering better control over sensitive documents and also leaves an audit trail/ chain of custody detailing individual case file usage.
3. Disorganized or Inaccessible Data
Searching for and retrieving case files can be very time-consuming. Agencies are held accountable for providing readily available digital evidence to court officials frequently upon request. Cloud-Based DEMS saves agencies time by offering an organized, easy-to-use interface that allows you to tag case files prior to upload. They also easily allow you to file reports based on different case properties making Case Management more streamlined. Cloud-Based DEMS solutions also give the opportunity for case files to be accessed and shared anywhere at any time as long as there is an internet connection, Simon Araya, Chief Technology Officer at Utility,Inc. confirms this stating “The advantage of having all your data on a single digital evidence management system is the fact that it’s accessible from a mobile device, a tablet, or your laptop and you don’t actually have to be on-prem within the network”.This can be a game-changer for agencies increasing overall request response times and productivity.
4. External Compliance Issues.
Law enforcement personnel must abide by strict storage of digital evidence and chain of custody rules established by the Criminal Justice Information Service (CJIS) and the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS). Digital evidence security should include audit trails, customizable permissions, and strict authentication protocols.The Laws governing how case evidence is managed are always changing. Each State has its own security and privacy guidelines which can be quite complex and non compliance can lead to severe penalties for agencies. The use of on premise storage may or may not fulfill the chain of custody standard. Agencies could still use USB flash drives to load files on the server that could be checked-in and out of a control office and scanned/cleaned between uses but that still doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be infected by the computer that is used to load the files. Compared to on-premise storage solutions, the Cloud Based DEMS have the ability to continually update security measures to the newest standards and replicate files in multiple locations to protect it. Cloud Based DEMS also provide greater visibility to case file actions in addition to monitoring authorized access by external users.
5. Reduced Productivity
Time is valuable. On-premise data storage solutions require a full-time IT staff to keep things running smoothly. With the ever-increasing amount of digital evidence being recorded each day, more servers are needed to keep up which means more staff attention is needed in this area as well. “Data is coming from all sources. It’s not just body cameras, it’s not just a recorder. We have fixed cameras, we have citizens with mobile devices, we have phone dumps so there’s a lot of data that’s coming in and all of a sudden you have to have an I.T. Group that is constantly trying to keep up with this avalanche of data. When you migrate to a cloud-based digital evidence management system you don’t have to worry about that” explains Araya. Implementing a Cloud-Based DEMS often translates directly into increased productivity since IT staff are able to tend to more pressing issues instead of constantly maintaining an on-premise server. Digital Evidence stored in the cloud can also automatically be patched and secured on an ongoing basis without the need for staff to remember to do it. This can be especially beneficial for short-staffed departments.
It is evident that DEMS are an important tool in every agency’s arsenal, able to quickly make sense of the mountains of data being produced everyday. Cloud-Based DEMS solutions take these benefits to a higher level for agencies looking to improve security, productivity and reduce unnecessary expenditure. Departments that implement these forward thinking solutions also help prevent and defend against citizen complaints, as well as frivolous and expensive litigation. “Moving digital evidence from on-premise storage into the cloud is one of the smartest decisions an agency can make,” suggests Amandah Tirkot, Senior Software Architect at Utility. “Let technology experts take on the responsibility of managing your evidence in a secure, easy to access environment” Tirkot concludes.
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