As the primary criminal justice agency in Colorado, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) strives to maximize the effectiveness of its Forensic Services division. Using a laboratory information management system that incorporates the productivity applications in Microsoft Office 2010, the CBI has improved collaboration among staff members, reduced its case backlog, and enhanced its ability to promote public safety.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has an important and challenging mission. As the primary criminal justice agency in Colorado, the CBI works to promote public safety, conduct criminal investigations, and provide forensic laboratory services for other law enforcement agencies in Colorado.
The agency has approximately 250 employees, including 80 forensic scientists who work in the Forensic Services division. The Forensic Services team works to collect and analyze criminal evidence and report scientific results to the police and the courts. Forensic scientists and other investigators in five CBI labs across Colorado often work together across disciplines and locations.
The primary forensic services resource for most police agencies in Colorado, the CBI participated in more than 8,000 criminal investigations in 2009, many involving multiple lines of investigation and thousands of pieces of evidence. This requires the agency to store and analyze a large amount of data.
“Forensic analyses involve interplay between multiple scientists,” says Chet Ubowski, Agent in Charge and Quality Assurance Manager for the Forensic Services division of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. “For example, we need to make it easier and more efficient for a chemist in the Denver lab to consult with a chemist in Grand Junction.”
To support the productivity and effectiveness of its forensic analysts, the CBI needed to automate manual processes and provide tools that investigators could use to complete analyses quickly and accurately, present results in different formats, comply with stringent reporting requirements, and collaborate efficiently. Ultimately, the CBI strives to complete cases rapidly so that it can reduce operating costs―and more importantly, protect public safety.
In 2008, the CBI began managing and automating Forensic Services processes with a laboratory information management system (LIMS) developed by the solutions provider and Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Forensic Advantage Systems. The LIMS, called Forensic Advantage®, interoperated with the Microsoft Office 2007 suite. In 2009, when Forensic Advantage updated its LIMS to interoperate with Microsoft Office 2010 Professional, CBI became an early adopter of the upgraded solution.
The CBI launched a pilot project to deploy Forensic Advantage and Office 2010 Professional in three of its forensic labs, followed by a roll out to 80 seats in all five Forensic Services labs; the CBI intends to install Office 2010 throughout the entire agency by September 2010.
Scientists and law enforcement agents at the CBI use Forensic Advantage to manage data using forms in the Microsoft InfoPath 2010 information gathering program, and they report the results of their scientific analyses using Microsoft Word 2010, Excel 2010 spreadsheet software, the PowerPoint 2010 presentation graphics program, and Visio 2010 drawing and diagramming software.
Forensic Services employees use co-authoring in Word 2010 and PowerPoint 2010 to edit files simultaneously, even across locations. Analysts can identify, highlight, and share trends in crime analyses and workloads using the Sparklines and Slicers features in Excel 2010, which make it easier to format worksheets and visualize trends in data. With InfoPath 2010, the CBI can efficiently manage stringent chain-of-custody, accreditation, and evidence-discovery reporting requirements. CBI analysts use PowerPoint 2010 and Visio 2010 to create clear, visual presentations for crime investigators, the courts, prosecutors, and defense attorneys.
The CBI uses Office 2010 and Forensic Advantage to support more efficient services, reduce its case backlog, and help promote public safety.
Efficient, effective collaboration. CBI analysts use a variety of applications in Office 2010 to collect materials quickly, share information, and collaborate with colleagues, who may work in different units or at other police agencies. They can enhance the accuracy and effectiveness of their analyses and quickly produce up-to-date accreditation, discovery, and chain-of-custody documentation to support their findings.
“With Office 2010, we have the tools at our fingertips to effectively communicate and exchange information back and forth,” says Ubowski. “And because our people are already familiar with the easy-to-use tools in Office 2010, they can do it quickly and efficiently.”
Rapid case turnaround. Forensic scientists and technicians at CBI can now complete analyses and return results quickly, reducing the agency’s case backlog and making it easier to meet court deadlines. After adopting Forensic Advantage in 2008, the drug chemistry unit in Forensic Services reduced its backlog from 4,000 to 800 samples, and the agency anticipates that it will continue to increase the speed and accuracy of its reports using Sparklines and Slicers in Excel 2010.
Enhanced public safety, community development. By producing accurate analyses and delivering robust reports quickly and cost-effectively, the CBI can help make it easier for police to apprehend criminals and for the courts to conduct informed legal trials. With an initiative to use InfoPath forms to correlate DNA samples to fingerprints, the CBI can also help identify offenders who may have ties to other crimes.
“The sooner we can identify offenders and get them arrested, the better off everybody is,” says Ubowski. “With Office 2010, we can analyze evidence and quickly get it to the people who need it, which helps us prevent crime and increase public safety. When people feel a greater sense of security, they are more likely to relocate, live, and spend in a community, which helps promote development of local economies.”
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