If you work in a CID (Criminal Investigations Department), then chances are you will not have been surprised when the
media reported the findings of a new
HMIC (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary)
report, suggesting a ‘national crisis’ in the shortage of detectives. With teams now expected to concurrently investigate 20 incidents, officer stress levels are high, and consequently, experienced detectives are quitting the force altogether.
Highlighting the scale of the problem,
an article published by the BBC states that ‘Inspectors say the Met Police is currently short of 700 detectives, and they are "very concerned" that too often officers without the right skills and experience are investigating crimes.’ Factor in what is commonly referred to as ‘tenure’ and there is a concerning brain drain in CID departments.
So, what if anything can be done?
First, we must accept that across every department and every force there continues to be pressure applied to do the same, or more, with fewer resources. What’s more, this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Still, the expectation is that every crime needs to be investigated in a thorough and timely manner to achieve the highest number of successful prosecutions. It would appear this presents an impossible contradiction.
But there are a range of measures that could be taken to help solve the problem.
One possible remedy: halt the tenure process whereby officers in CID are forced to move to other departments after a specified period. When it was advised by HMIC way back in 1993, this policy was intended to provide officers with opportunities to develop their skills and careers, to the benefit of the force. But the flipside is that highly seasoned officers are being replaced by less experienced ones who need to climb a very steep learning curve, in a highly pressurized environment.
Another option is to use technology to ensure that departmental processes and best practices are being followed, even when seasoned officers cycle out of their current role (or retire altogether), and are replaced by detectives who are just learning the ropes. For example,
digital evidence management technology makes it easier to collect, analyze and share evidence, and automates manual processes so new detectives can hit the ground running.
Consider how detectives gather evidence and build cases today. They might have to log on to a dozen or more systems to collect evidence and then manually search for connections in cases, which wastes time and increases the likelihood that crucial evidence will be missed. Investigators also waste incredible amounts of time emailing, phoning, filling out paperwork, even driving from place to place to manually collect digital evidence. All of this evidence is then painstakingly copied and saved on CDs, DVDs or USB drives, and added to paper case folders.
Digital evidence management technology breaks down these barriers by enabling police departments to seamlessly connect all of their digital silos through one application. The technology provides a one-stop shop for gathering evidence so detectives don’t have to waste time logging on to all of the individual systems. The technology can also search across all connected systems and recommend evidence. Additionally, detectives can initiate and track evidence requests using built in workflows, and receive automatic notifications when those requests are fulfilled. This makes it easier for a detective to stay on top of active cases, while not losing track of evidence or leads.
At some point, digital evidence has to be sorted and put into context based on time sequence and location. Today, detectives spend grueling hours manually sifting through evidence and trying to make sense of it. With the aid of
digital evidence management technology they can assemble and visualize digital evidence in meaningful ways, for example on maps or timelines. The technology also simplifies the process of sharing evidence with prosecutors, so detectives can spend less time copying and transporting evidence, and focus more time and attention on solving cases.
While no technology is a single cure-all,
digital evidence management technology can certainly go a long way toward minimizing the negative impacts of ‘CID brain drain’ by helping detectives work more efficiently and effectively, and by bringing much needed discipline to the investigative process, whether officers have been on the job for two months or twenty years.