When it comes to building a criminal investigation for effective prosecution, ultimately solving crimes and upholding public safety, both investigators and prosecutors have invaluable and interconnected roles to play.
In an ideal world, investigators will meticulously document every relevant detail and publish their findings in a highly organized, easy-to-digest report that prosecutors can refer to as they prepare cases for trial. However, in reality, the handoff between investigators and prosecutors is often not that seamless.
In this blog post, we will discuss the journey of an investigative report, the current obstacles that many investigative teams face in the discovery process, and why a single investigative case management system can be such a helpful solution.
The Journey of an Investigative Report
Given the prevalence of cross-departmental collaboration, implementing organized, streamlined case management processes is more important than ever before.
It’s important to remember that investigative reports go through a lot of hands. For example, these days it is common for an investigator to collaborate with a variety of non-police personnel on a case report, such as evidence technicians, dispatchers, and victim advocates.
Then, once a report is completed and submitted to a prosecutor’s office, it doesn’t necessarily go to the prosecutor directly. Oftentimes, a paralegal or a team of paralegals will be responsible for trial prep and gathering of discovery materials before a prosecutor or district attorney reviews them and turns them over to the defense.
It’s important to remember all of the different stakeholders both preparing and reviewing reports in the process of preparing an effective prosecution because it reinforces the importance of a well organized case management system. Otherwise, it can become easy for items to start slipping through the cracks.
Current Challenges at Many Law Enforcement Agencies
The reality is that many overworked investigators spend a lot of their time chasing scattered information. Additionally, many of these overworked investigators are using disparate systems for different components of their case management workflow, which is a recipe for disorganized and ineffective cases. For instance, major crimes may be recorded by a patrol officer in an RMS system and then turned over to detectives who use a home-grown system to document their investigative follow-up activities. Meanwhile, physical evidence discovered at the crime scene may be entered by CSIs in a separate system while digital or physical evidence is entered in yet another.
This disorganization can create a domino effect, leading to countless additional issues down the road. For example, law enforcement agencies are currently experiencing a high percentage of employee turnover, which means that an investigator will frequently have to take over a caseload mid-investigation. If the original investigator’s case files lacked organizational coherence or were dispersed across many locations, this puts the new investigator who takes over the assignment at a major disadvantage.
Another example where disorganized case files can be extremely problematic is in the context of cold cases. The increasing prevalence of DNA evidence in recent years presents the potential for a lot of unsolved cases that have sat dormant for years to be suddenly revisited. But, as mentioned before, if all the existing case files are scattered across many different systems, this will make it all the more difficult to make substantial progress to reopen a cold case, build evidence to support an arrest, and then successfully prosecute a defendant. Instead, it creates an environment where things can slip through the cracks.
Clearly, organizational issues can be extremely detrimental to a law enforcement agencies’ effectiveness and can hinder the process toward effective prosecution. But what’s the solution? In this next section, we’ll discuss how a single case management platform like CaseBuilder™ can help law enforcement agencies collaborate effectively, connect more dots, and solve more cases.
Solution – Leveraging One Case Management Platform
Given all of the problems that can arise from disorganized and disparate case management, leveraging one cohesive platform that can receive information from an agency’s RMS and provides all necessary functionality that investigators need to close cases is the most desirable solution. It also appears to make the most sense given that many investigative teams will be collaborating with a variety of external personnel who also need convenient access to reports.
Using a case management platform like CaseBuilder, law enforcement agencies can carefully specify privacy settings to ensure that stakeholders only have access to the case files that are applicable to them and that certain confidential investigative information is protected from unauthorized release.
CaseBuilder provides a cohesive platform for investigators and supervisors to capture scene details, organize information (such as license plate numbers, nicknames, or other pertinent details), assign tasks for follow-up, and conduct case reviews. Additionally, investigative teams will receive automated alerts anytime new leads and events relative to their case are discovered by other investigators.
Then, once an arrest is made, detectives have everything they need to give prosecutors a courtroom-ready case.
Here are two other particular value adds that CaseBuilder has to offer.
Redactions and Disclosures
Redactions and disclosures can both be crucial components of investigative case management and effective prosecution. After all, if a court orders a disclosure or redaction in preparation for trial and it’s not honored, that could potentially be grounds for overturning a case.
With CaseBuilder, an investigator can publish a case for dissemination and during the process, the end-user can choose to publish all the supplemental documents and investigative notes in the case or can specify only particular ones that are suitable for disclosure. CaseBuilder also has document approval and versioning. Once a document is approved it changes from what is considered a work product to a permanent part of the case file. The document can always be edited/redacted but it’s saved as a new version and the original is always retained. The printed document and the system audit log reflect who created the original and who revised it.
Notifications About When to Review Data
Many of the disparate case management solutions that agencies use today are outdated and can hinder efforts to maintain legal compliance. It should go without saying that this is problematic. After all, data-driven policing is only effective if the data is up to date. This is especially true when it comes to storing criminal intelligence information. For example, the US Code of Federal Regulations 28 CFR Part 23 governs what type of intelligence information can be stored and how often it needs to be reviewed to determine whether it still has value and should continue to be retained by law enforcement. CaseBuilder helps agencies stay in compliance and has automated functionality to help agencies maintain compliance. When a deadline approaches, the platform sends the information to a review queue and alerts the investigator and supervisor that an item is pending review, ensuring that information stays up-to-date and current.
While investigative reports are not often seen as the most exciting or glamorous part of an investigator’s job, they are critically important to solve cases with effective prosecution, ultimately supporting our entire system of justice. Detail-oriented documentation following organizational best practices is essential and becomes so much easier when leveraging a cohesive case management platform like CaseBuilder.
Learn more about how CaseBuilder helps investigators and prosecutors function more efficiently here.