Modernizing the Investigative Workflow is the key to Regaining Public Trust
February 22, 2022
Former FBI Special Agent, Strategic Advisor at Cellebrite
The rapid rise in technological advances is creating tough choices for law enforcement agencies who must either modernize their investigations or public safety will remain at risk.
While innovations in technology are designed to be used for “good,” the reality is that criminals discovered long ago that digital technology is the key to exploiting new areas of opportunity. Crimes involving drug and human trafficking, organized crime syndicates, and domestic and international terrorism are all on the rise. The complexities surrounding cryptocurrencies and the way that criminal organizations are using crypto to hide illicit gains is another area criminals are exploiting and digital devices are a key enabler. In fact, digital devices are turning up in cases so frequently (one recent study found that in the last year cell phones appeared as a major source of evidence in 96% of the cases) that it appears technology is actually changing the very nature of crime. And while the precipitous increase in device use and digital evidence is alone a major concern, this is only part of the problem.
Where Crimes and Technology Collide
All of these influences bring us to an interesting intersection. Crime is on the rise, so the number of cases law enforcement is investigating is growing. Cases today are also far more complex. At the same time, law enforcement staff numbers are decreasing as budget cuts and retirements take their toll. Criminals are also becoming far more tech savvy leaving many agencies to play catch-up as they try to retrain existing officers or recruit new ones with stronger technical skills.
Public scrutiny has also made the average officer’s job more challenging. Many officers feel they can’t do their jobs properly when every move is being body-cam recorded. Widely publicized actions made by a few bad cops have also lead many officers to reevaluate whether protecting the public is something they still want to do. Rather than be at the center of the next Twitter firestorm, some jurisdictions are taking a more hands-off approach, opening the door for criminals who feel they can press their advantage when police take a more passive approach. Others are simply leaving the police force for jobs in the private sector leaving agencies to wrestle with doing more with less.
Forced Choices Threaten Public Safety
All of these pressures are forcing investigative teams to make “forced choices” as they triage cases to decide what their highest priorities are. This, in turn, is causing a widening “public-safety gap” that makes protecting citizens more difficult than ever before.
The adverse effects of this gap are plain to see:
- Clearance rates are down.
- The skills gap between agency staff and tech-savvy criminals continues to widen.
- Increased workloads heaped on fewer officers is causing burnout and driving attrition rates.
- Lack of funds is making it extremely difficult to restaff and retool to meet these growing challenges.
All of this is having a negative impact on public trust and confidence in police departments. And that trend is growing.
To close the public safety gap and regain critical trust, agencies must evolve to meet the times. This is a multi-step process that centers on two key focus areas that managers must act on to turn this situation around: modernize the investigative workflow and transform the investigative culture within their departments to enable investigators to stay ahead of tech-savvy criminals. As technology advances, investigations must also evolve or risk sacrificing public safety in the future.
Let’s dive a little deeper into what’s actually driving this need for change, the critical capabilities agencies need to meet their challenges, and how working in partnership with the right mission partner can help.
Why Investigations Are Getting Harder
A number of factors are making investigations more difficult to manage. The scale and complexity of cases fed by the rise and rapid adoption of digital technology is one driver. Criminals are using the latest technology to commit far more sophisticated crimes including crimes against children, drug and human trafficking, financial crimes, and acts of violence. And they are using tech advances, like encryption, to hide their illicit acts.
At the same time, the volume of digital evidence is exploding. Cases often now involve multiple devices (sometimes dozens) and with each upgrade, the amount of data each device can contain grows exponentially. This creates an ever-growing mountain of data that is coming from a variety of devices including phones and wearables, videos, the Internet, photos, apps, cloud sources, and more.
Reviewing all of this data to find leads and make connections is extremely complicated because even the simplest cases can involve multiple suspects and devices. Moreover, one case may be connected to other cases that are being investigated. Finding the connection between these cases and suspects is critical for expanding investigations and potentially disrupting an even broader network of criminals and activities. Yet, many agencies lack the tools and skilled personnel to do so.
As the level of encryption to protect user information becomes more formidable, accessing data as a necessary step in launching investigations is becoming increasingly more difficult. Finally, managing the influx of data to ensure the digital chain of evidence is secured and data is admissible in court adds yet another layer of complexity.
All of these influences are creating a potential minefield for every stakeholder across the investigative workflow and a disaster for agency managers when cases collapse because key data sources either go missing or are mishandled, making digital evidence inadmissible in court.
To avoid these problems, agencies must reassess what capabilities are needed to modernize their investigative process and protect the digital chain of evidence, then make the necessary investments to retool their workflow.
Modernizing the Workflow
Rather than looking at one-off solutions that may put a band aid on a single problem, agencies need to look holistically across the entire workflow to increase the efficiency of investigations. Ideally, what’s needed is a process and platform that tracks the evidence from data collection to the courtroom.
A Total Solution: Cellebrite has developed an innovative architecture and approach for modernizing investigative workflows that starts with its digital intelligence platform. Far beyond simply collecting data, this platform provides a complete, end-to-end solution that streamlines the entire investigative process and aligns key stakeholders across the agency.
Compatible with Existing Infrastructure: Cellebrite’s platform is designed to be completely interoperable and open to interact and integrate with existing data and systems that agencies already have invested in.
Flexible Deployment: No matter what size an agency might be, forward-leaning managers are always thinking about long-term systems architecture. To meet this vision, Cellebrite’s platform can be deployed in either an on-premises, cloud, or hybrid environment. In short, no matter where an agency is along their digital transformation journey, Cellebrite’s offerings are designed to fit within an organization’s existing environment and strategy to address their specific needs.
A Force Multiplier: Cellebrite’s single platform makes cross-department collaboration easy, creating an efficiency-boosting force multiplier that enables teams to do far more with fewer members.
Fully Transparent: In a time when agencies are under intense public scrutiny, managers can rest assured that everything that’s done inside the digital intelligence platform is conducted in a manner that is ethical, secure, and protective of citizens’ data privacy.
Key Benefits for the Investigative Team
Lab Staff: Cellebrite’s platform allows lab personnel to easily collect and review digital evidence, regardless of its source or format. This drives complete and rapid collection of digital evidence.
Investigators: Investigators and lab team members can securely store, share, protect, and manage information easily. This enables investigators and analysts to analyze and discover data (using artificial intelligence) to automate the analysis of evidence and find correlations and connections that they may not have been able to see before.
Prosecutors: Those presenting in court now have a trusted source of defensible evidence that is relevant and protected through an auditable chain of custody that is court-ready and deliverable in a way that makes it easy for judges and juries to understand complex cases.
Transforming the Investigative Culture
The second step in the modernization process involves taking a deep dive into how experienced employees can help transform the investigative culture to fight high-tech crimes now and in the future.
- Training: Upskill your staff members to build more efficient investigations. Cellebrite has a deep bench of industry experts that can provide teams with both on-site and remote training and services as part of an ongoing practice of self-improvement. Creating an atmosphere that encourages employees to grow their skills is a strong morale booster and a smart way to retain and attract stronger talent. Cellebrite certifications provide staff members with industry recognition and credibility, allowing them to become expert witnesses that are “Cellebrite Certified.”
- Advanced services: Take advantage of customized solutions and keep abreast of the latest technologies to make your teams more effective by utilizing Cellebrite’s special team of experts.
- Value realization: Build your agency’s reputation and improve overall employee satisfaction with agency-wide standardization and proven success. This can lead to higher retention rates of qualified employees who feel they are being invested in.
Choosing The Right Mission Partner
Closing the public safety gap by modernizing the investigative workflow and culture isn’t just about adopting the right technology platform and upskilling employees; it’s also about choosing the right partner to help accomplish this mission.
At Cellebrite, we’re dedicated to evaluating your needs and working with you to meet your mission today and tomorrow by providing agencies with the means to evolve as technologies advance and new challenges arise. Our experts are ready to lend their expertise to help evaluate individual agency needs and provide thoughtful solutions for keeping communities safer. And we do so with our eyes clearly focused on ethics, transparency, and preserving personal data privacy.
While we built our reputation as an innovation leader by providing solutions to lawfully collect evidence from digital devices, Cellebrite offers much more. We are the only company in our industry that is providing a true, end-to-end solution that simplifies the investigative workflow and allows agencies to run investigations far more effectively. And we back our platform up with expertise, training, and services that are second to none.
Closing the Gap
Regaining public trust by modernizing the investigative workflow and changing the investigative culture is the key to closing the expanding public safety gap. As digital sources and volume grow, and criminals become more sophisticated in their methods, the need for agencies to evolve could not be more urgent.
The Cellebrite investigative DI platform provides a force multiplier for agencies by dramatically boosting the productivity of their investigative resources. While results may vary, this force multiplier can provide up to a 30 times improvement in time to evidence and a 40% improvement in operational efficiency.
Instead of having difficulties managing digital evidence, lab teams can now have complete, authorized, and easy access to data. Rather than waste time with volumes of data that are siloed, vulnerable, and potentially flawed, investigators and lab team members can now have secure storage, integrated management, and the ability to easily share information to move investigations forward faster.
Investigators and analysts can apply innovative analytics using artificial intelligence to automate the analysis of almost any digital data type to find missing correlations and insights from current or past cases, saving time and valuable human resources. And prosecutors can now feel confident that they are getting solid, defensible evidence that’s been handled and properly discovered, and is protected by an auditable chain of custody.
At Cellebrite, we care and we stand ready to listen to your needs and share our expertise in collaboration with your team as a true mission partner. To learn more about how Cellebrite can help modernize your investigative workflow, contact your local Cellebrite representative or click here to get started.
About the Author
Todd Adams brings 25 years of law enforcement experience to Cellebrite. He is primarily responsible for working with law enforcement and government agencies to determine how to prepare for Digital Policing in the future. He is also responsible for the development and delivery of technical training for Cellebrite solutions to these agencies around the world.
Mr. Adams has successfully managed programs and professional services in various countries around the globe and he regularly speaks at industry conferences such as Techno Security, the Digital Forensics Conference, and other similar forums.