The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has been searching for a new Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS) and recently concluded that search with the selection of the NICE Investigate solution following a robust procurement process.
The IOPC exists to oversee the police complaints system in England and Wales. The organisation investigates the most serious matters, including deaths following police contact, and ultimately sets the standards by which the police service should handle complaints. Learning derived from its work is used to influence changes in policing.
The IOPC is an independent body and, as such, makes its decisions entirely independently of the police service and central Government.
An important aspect of the work of the IOPC is to make it as easy as possible for involved parties, specifically police forces, to share information and evidence with case investigators as quickly and efficiently as possible. To this end, the IOPC had been looking for better ways in which to handle the ever-evolving and increasing demands of digital evidence management, with COVID-19 and remote working only serving to accelerate that search.
Keith Tagg, the IOPC’s delivery manager, explained to Security Matters: “When we start an investigation, digital material and evidence needs to be transferred to the IOPC by police forces. In the past, we’ve relied on disks, USBs or delivery by hand. By introducing a DEMS, we knew that we could make it easier and quicker to share information with police forces or other bodies. Not only would the process take less time, but it would also be more secure and, what’s more, of a high evidential standard.”
The IOPC spoke to a number of police forces and bodies to inform its decisions and the procurement procedure. NICE Investigate was selected to provide the DEMS in the wake of what’s described as a “robust” procurement process.
One of the factors which led to the IOPC choosing NICE Investigate was the feedback from police forces, in addition to the system’s ability to play back different formats of CCTV footage.
On that point, Keith Tagg explained: “Not being able to watch CCTV footage because it isn’t in a playable format is a problem shared by police forces and the IOPC. It can prolong and impede the progress of our investigations and introduce frustration at the point when a quick decision is needed for a referral or appeal. This issue was exacerbated still further during the pandemic when investigators working from home would need to travel to the office to watch the footage or otherwise request that the footage be uploaded to the network. With DEMS, any CCTV footage is automatically transcoded, so an investigator can instantly play it back with no delay.”
Less physical material
The introduction of DEMS has also meant that the IOPC is now handling less physical material, which woud take significant storage space and is less secure.
“DEMS means that we have consistent control of content,” asserted Tagg. “It’s more secure and we have a detailed audit trail. The assets don’t deteriorate over time and they can be retained and accessed a lot more easily. Most importantly, the assets are preserved to a high evidential standard.”
According to Tagg, the feedback so far suggests that police forces like DEMS. “Moving to more electronic sharing is a shared commitment across the whole criminal justice sector and so far this has been a positive experience.”
The next step is to share material via DEMS with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). “There’s a shared commitment across the criminal justice sector to move towards online management,” concluded Tagg. “Working with the CPS, DEMS means that we can share a link to information residing on our system rather than actual files or physical material. This is more efficient, more secure and also removes a major pain point from the disclosure process. We’re looking forward to making ongoing improvements,”
*Additional information on the work of the IOPC is available online at www.policeconduct.gov.uk