The first minutes at a crime scene are the most important in the fact finding and investiga- tive process. Collecting “just the facts” is not enough. Police must rapidly collect witnesses’ personal observations and perceptions of an incident to gain a better understanding of what
really happened. Once a report is complete, there is a high level of expectation that all available
information was accurately and completely documented. However, with the tense environment of
many of these incidents along with the unreliability of
eyewitness testimony, this is not always the case.
New technology is being adopted every year to increase
transparency and better equip police officers to deal with
incident or crime scene investigations and reporting. Just
look at body-worn video cameras (BWC), which, only a
few years ago, were considered a luxury by some, and an
intrusion of officer privacy by others. Now the technology is largely viewed as beneficial to both police and
public and we are beginning to see widespread adoption
across the U.S. and beyond.
While BWC are a great example, there are many
more integral technological innovations that are gaining
ground. For example, other technologies like mobile data
collection and retrieval platforms are on the forefront of
revolutionizing how scene investigations and reporting is
conducted. Evidence collection should be both swift and
accurate, but for too long those goals have been mutually
exclusive. The process for most law enforcement agencies involves substantial amounts of time spent on the trivial aspects of the job, such as rummaging
through binders for the appropriate forms, switching between documenting devices, and driving from
HQ-to-scene and back again to upload information. All together the whole process seems archaic
when you stop and think about how we would do a comparative process in our personal lives—with
instant sharing and messaging through our mobile devices now ubiquitous.
Sharing information between all agencies within jurisdictional boundaries ensures that no one
specific person or agency is put in a “sticky situation” where their testimony, or the data they
collected at the scene and during the investigation, is called into question. This not only protects
officers, but enables all of public safety to work together to serve the public we’re sworn to protect.
Innovative technologies are going to be the lynchpin to driving increased productivity across
public safety. With this technological sea change also comes with it a new level of transparency,
where operations and investigative data are available to law enforcement executives, criminal justice
representatives, political leaders, and citizens or the media (as governed by local laws). The public’s
expectation for law enforcement to “get it right” is justifiably high, and tools like these are the keys
to do just that.
Gerald Whitman has served in law enforcement for more than 40 years, most recently serving as Chief for
the Denver Police Department from 2000 to 2012, and Captain of the city’s SWAT and K- 9 Bureau until
July of 2015.
SEPTEMBER 2016 Forensic Magazine | wwww.forensicmag.com 7
Transparency is Key to More
Gerald Whitman has served in law enforcement
for more than 40 years, most recently serving as
Chief for the Denver Police Department.