In today’s world, you are facing ever-increasing caseloads and higher-than-ever demands for full traceability. Forensic organizations need tools that expedite and streamline processes while rigorously documenting chain-of-custody, analytical activities, and quality assurance traceability.
A Growing ‘Reliance on Science’
Ever since fingerprinting came to the fore in the mid-1800s, criminal investigations have increasingly relied on scientific methodologies – and have driven demand for lab-related services.
Today, nearly every forensic organization requires a LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) to track all aspects of the work performed on each case. Unfortunately, the options available to crime labs and forensic investigators have remained stagnant and underwhelming for years.
Many labs have had to make do with systems that weren’t designed specifically with forensic workflows and requirements in mind. These inefficiencies often lead to time-consuming workarounds or worse — DIY customization of off-the-shelf LIMS packages that make updates more difficult and risk destabilizing the entire system.
The unique needs of today’s forensic labs and organizations conducting criminal investigations have been unmet for so long that the LabVantage team asked the question: what would a cutting-edge modern LIMS for forensic investigations look like?
Forensics Labs Demand a New Approach to Evidence and Case Management
Unlike traditional LIMS systems, which focus on tracking and managing samples, a system designed for forensics labs and criminal investigations must instead consider how the entire investigation cycle works – from crime scene to lab to court.
In practical terms, this means a forensic LIMS must not only provide functionalities typically found in other types of labs, but must also address four specific requirements unique to criminal investigation:
- Case-centric workflows
Everything in a crime lab revolves around specific investigations. Samples must therefore be organized and managed accordingly.
- Chain-of-custody authentication
Every movement of a piece of evidence must be documented with a two-way authentication process. Any failure to do so compromises the entire criminal case.
- Third-party scrutiny of results
In addition to the usual quality checks used by all labs, forensic results must be examined and analyzed by specialists, e.g., examiners.
- Courtroom presentations
Examiners regularly need to present their results in a court of law and need efficient tools to compile and package the information needed by trial lawyers.
In addition to these essential functions, an ideal forensic LIMS should also consider the fact that evidence used in crime investigations are collected in the field rather than in medical or laboratory settings. The ability to enter evidence remotely through a secure portal is essential to ensure the LIMS is valuable to investigators, both from a time and workflow standpoint. A web-based portal makes it much easier to centralize all of the relevant elements of an investigation, in real-time or near-real-time, with fewer opportunities for data entry errors after the fact.
Pre-Configured: LabVantage Forensic Navigator
LabVantage has long been known for pre-configured industry solutions, called accelerators, which are delivered with master data applicable to those specific industries. (Master data, also known as static data, are those data that your laboratory utilizes in the course of generating dynamic data, that data that is the end product of your work. Examples of master data are examination specifics, workflow settings, storage locations, users, standards, reagents, QC constraints, etc.) LabVantage has a proven track record of helping clients go-live faster in industries such as food and beverage, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, quality, biobanking, diagnostics, and COVID-19 testing. The same approach was taken to build an accelerator for forensics: the LabVantage Forensic Navigator.
Forensic Navigator is designed to manage the full forensic lifecycle from evidence collection through disposition. Evidence is introduced to the LIMS either via the LabVantage Portal (convenient for use in the field) or by bringing samples directly into the laboratory, where an evidence technician can enter the data. Every activity is thoroughly documented for full traceability from evidence reception to disposition, and strict chain-of-custody is imposed on all evidence transfers and storage steps.
Investigation Benefits Begin at the Crime Scene
The LabVantage portal is a self-supportable solution that enables secure submission of evidence, requests for testing, ordering kits, checking status, retrieving reports, and more — all from the field.
Officers can initiate chain-of-custody and launch the case via the portal. When the evidence is later submitted physically to the lab, intake personnel can simply scan a barcode or query the case number to retrieve the case and associated evidence (and its data) that has already been entered – removing the need for dual entry of data and the potential for transcription errors.
Throughout the case, stakeholders such as officers and attorneys can check lab progress and ultimately retrieve copies of final reports. The portal offers the additional benefits of being quick to learn, easy to use, and less expensive to license.
The Evidence is Clear
Forensic Navigator streamlines evidence technician tasks by allowing them to quickly capture data required by their agency, such as case numbers, investigative authorities, suspect and victim details, chain-of-custody transactions and much more. Supervisors and managers can quickly access lists of all new work pending for the unit, with added information to facilitate assignments, including related cases, case priority, current staff workload and so on. Analysts and examiners can easily view assigned work and manage testing and reporting.
To ensure high-quality and compliant results, Forensic Navigator has comprehensive functionality to support ISO 17025 accreditation including:
- Consumables Module — Lot numbers, expiration dates, amounts, qualifying tests, etc.
- Equipment Certification — Performance checks, repair, and maintenance, etc.
- Lab Investigations — Tracks corrective action report activities.
- SDMS (Scientific Data Management System) — Full traceability with instrument interfaces.
- Examiner Certifications — Documented performance at specific analyses/examinations.
All of this data can be used to constrain the workflow to ensure quality compliance. For example, an examiner can be restricted from assigning or working on an exam for which they are not certified. Likewise, instruments cannot be assigned to a run if they are not properly maintained and calibrated.
In short, the new LabVantage Forensic Navigator provides a single software platform for the full lifecycle of case evidence. Contact us today to learn more about this game-changing platform, designed specifically for the unique needs of forensic investigation.