June 9, 2018
LEESBURG — Sherlock Holmes would never think of leaving Baker Street without his deerstalker hat and a magnifying glass.
If Leesburg police have their way Monday, they will have tools the literary detective couldn't imagine.
City commissioners are being asked to approve buying a $34,000 digital evidence management system.
"More than 50 percent of all evidence is digital," said Maj. Steve Rockefeller. A 33-year veteran of the department, he couldn't have imagined such a system when he first started either.
The department's evidence lockers still have bags of clothing, drugs, ammo and other things you can lay your hands on, including drug needles that officers find scattered everywhere. But the new system will keep track of dash-cam videos, surveillance footage, photographs, interviews, both audio and visual, 911 calls, digital photo lineups, and images of paper documents like checks and financial records from fraud cases.
The system can even redact portions of reports, if necessary.
Rockefeller on Friday stood outside the evidence room and looked down at two boxes filled with more than 2,000 DVDs, thumb drives and other digital gear that at one time had to be marked, placed in envelopes and stored on a shelf.
It's not just the storage that is the problem. Police staff are "burning" discs and making other copies that must be shared with prosecutors and defense attorneys and others. Some material, like cellphone "dumps," require very large capacity portable storage devices, Rockefeller said.
Presently, to share a file, evidence technician Alana Swafford must find the disc, break the evidence seal, initial it, make a record of who is getting the copy, and then put it in a bag that goes to court personnel in Tavares twice a week.
"With the digital system, we make it available to them with their own logins," Rockefeller said.
City staff is recommending having the Police Department use about $9,400 from its forfeiture fund account toward the purchase.