Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $1,000,000)
The Fairfax County Police Department is comprised of 1493 sworn officers serving a population of approximately 1.2 million residents. The Department regularly generates vast and increasing amounts of digital evidence from both internal and external sources that are used by local and federal courts in the prosecution of crimes. A program for the regular sharing of the body-worn camera and in-car video evidence to the Fairfax County Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney is already in place. The Department has also recently improved the efficiency of providing digital evidence from other sources, such as helicopter and security camera video.
Workload and technical challenges remain in the need to consolidate diverse types of digital evidence, relate them to a particular investigation, and then share them with a prosecutor. The Department’s experience has been that certain technology tools and system integrations can be used to automate some of these processes to reduce workload. However, dedicated staff is still needed to fulfill these needs where technology cannot.
The first proposal for this grant is to hire three full-time contract employees dedicated to the management of the digital evidence stored by the Department, ensure consistency across systems in relating evidence to specific cases, and provide support to both the Department and Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney staff in the appropriate storage, access, and sharing of this evidence. Second, to engage a consultant in the development of system integration tools that would further enhance the automated processes used to relate digital evidence together and provide quick access of the organized evidence to a prosecutor. Lastly, grant funds would be used to procure tools needed by prosecutors to access and review the varying types of digital evidence more easily.
The desired outcome shall be to streamline the process of digital evidence handling from collection or creation through case disposition in court. An expected measurable metric of the success of this proposal will be the decreasing duration between when an investigation is complete or an arrest is made to when the related digital evidence has been provided to the prosecutor’s office. The Department hopes that, in cooperation with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the processes and procedures developed through this project can be used to assist other law enforcement agencies and prosecutors’ offices in their handling of digital evidence.