Technology as a Vital Component to Criminal Investigations

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Poor, inadequate case filing systems create high rates of errors, room for lost data, and make it challenging or impossible to cross-reference similar cases or suspects. Law enforcement agencies need to embrace technology and software to manage and conduct criminal investigations in a more effective and efficient manner.

A perfect example of proactive technology adoption is the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation (NOPJF), which was facing operational challenges and sought out a new case management solution to help solve their problems. Melanie Talia, CEO of the NOPJF, and Dr. Michael Geerken, advisor and consultant for the NOPJF, met with Column to share their experience with fulfilling their organization’s need for a new case management system.

The New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the people and processes of the criminal justice system in New Orleans, Louisiana. According to Melanie Talia, three goals have defined the NOPJF’s strategic vision of “restoring faith in the Orleans Parish Justice System” since Hurricane Katrina: retain and restore human capital, rebuild and restore critical infrastructure, and improve operational effectiveness and efficiency. In order to act according to this vision and solve a variety of challenges, the NOPJF began the search for a criminal case management system.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the NOPJF did not have a single case management system, but rather every district and division had its own homegrown system. Melanie Talia explained, “Without a central location for an officer in one district to know what an officer in another district is doing, an officer might come in for a report on an armed robbery in District 1 not knowing that District 8 was also working an armed robbery involving the same perpetrator.” Dr. Geerken added that another challenge was getting police reports from various departments to the District Attorney’s (DA) office. The NOPJF’s case management system would need to work well with the DA’s screening case management system. The integration of the two systems would allow for the flow of more information and the development of statistics for individual officers. “In cases when we see an officer who has a high percentage of fully processed cases versus another officer whose cases get dropped half the time, we know that something is wrong there and can fix the problem,” said Dr. Geerken. Once the NOPJF identified its biggest short-term goal was moving everybody to one, consolidated system, the next step was finding a vendor to help them do so.

When it came to looking for a vendor, Dr. Geerken explained, “One of our criteria was that the system had to be an existent web-based, off-the-shelf system and that the vendor would be willing to make any improvements or configurations…we also wanted a system that had been in use someplace else, had gotten good reviews, and had all the features that aligned with what we needed.” They were interested in an adaptable solution that had been successfully implemented for many other organizations, and found that with Column Case Investigative. Dr. Geerken also offered his advice to other agencies looking for a case management system. He stressed the importance of carefully looking at what is available and what others are using. Additionally, he pointed out that people don’t know what they really want until they know what they can have. Column helped the NOPJF realize new possibilities which led to the organization asking for subsequent enhancements later on. Furthermore, it is important not to overlook project management and implementation once your organization finds the right product. Dr. Geerken added, “I’ve been very impressed with Column’s ability to move things along, identify people’s roles and identify time lines – it’s the best I’ve seen frankly.”

Little or no visibility into workloads, incident management, and case handling exists in organizations charged with the responsibility to conduct investigations. The NOPJF recognized that in order to protect the integrity and effectiveness of the organization, a new, consolidated case management system was needed. That’s where Column came in. Column Case Investigative is a collaborative, integrated, web-based solution that helps organizations like the NOPJF securely log, store, and share information and records through a centralized system that is accessible from any district.

About the Interviewees

Melanie A. Talia is the Chief Executive Officer of the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation. She directs the foundation in its ongoing role as a principal fiduciary agent, negotiator and advisor to all members of the criminal justice system in Orleans Parish.

Dr. Michael Geerken serves as an advisor and consultant to the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation. His extensive background in police and judicial technologies ensure that technology facilitates the criminal justice reform.

Last modified on Tuesday, 18 August 2015

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