Investigations - The 7 Risk Factors that Lead to Delays

Why Does a 3-Month Investigation Take 3 Years To Get to Court?

Have you ever wondered why it takes years for a case to reach the court despite a mere three-month investigation? The root cause of this delay often traces back to the manual, inconsistent and largely ineffective method most agencies employ when delivering the brief of evidence.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. By adopting digital briefs of evidence, agencies can streamline the entire criminal justice process, from the moment an investigation commences to the time the verdict is delivered. Embracing the power of technology can lead to faster, more efficient outcomes for all parties involved, ultimately serving justice in a more timely and effective manner.

At Comtrac, we know first-hand the importance of streamlining the criminal justice process through digital briefs of evidence. As we work closely with leading investigation agencies across Australia and overseas, we’ve identified seven main risk factors that often lead to poor investigations.

These risk factors include;

  • inefficient use of resources,
  • lack of leadership or suitable mentoring,
  • mismanagement of evidence,
  • complexity of investigations,
  • organisational cultural issues,
  • minimal strategic direction, and
  • investigators lacking experience.

By addressing these challenges head-on and embracing digital transformation, we can reduce the likelihood of these factors impacting the investigation process and drive better outcomes for our communities.

Are you experiencing these in your investigations?

There is a common theme that underlies these 7 risk factors.

It’s not obvious at first though, because while trying to solve these problems organisations often deal with them discreetly. This common theme is discussed in detail later but first, we need a deeper understanding of the issues.

Many of today’s law enforcement and regulatory agencies face the challenge of maintaining capacity and capability within an environment of reduced resources, fiscal challenges and more. Can you relate? The logical reaction is to find a way to “do more with less”. Craig Doran, Comtrac’s Founder and CEO, recently discussed this with The Courier-Mail. Read the article here.

This requires an increase in the efficiency of investigations but at the same time maintaining the quality of investigation outcomes.

One of the main approaches that organisations take to improve their investigations is to introduce a Case Management System (CMS). The assumption is that this will improve things considerably. But after all of this is implemented… agencies get frustrated when things don’t improve. Or even worse… sometimes investigation efficiency even deteriorates. Why?

We call this “The Case Management Mirage”

Convinced by the promise of modern technology and features like task management, data capture, link charting, reporting, time tracking and accountability… agencies attempt to wedge the new CMS into their current operational environment.

However, after implementing these new systems (often with resistance from the actual end users) agencies find that their new CMS has not yielded the promised increased productivity. Although accountability, tracking and reporting of cases have been significantly increased through the CMS, the efficiency and effectiveness of investigations have remained unchanged or in some cases actually deteriorated.

This is because a CMS is unlikely to be able to deal with any of the root cause issues – the 7 main risk factors identified at the start of the article. In fact, the introduction of a CMS may actually reduce efficiency even further as investigators now have to commit a great deal of time entering data into the CMS so that the case reporting features are maintained.

The diagnosis of this failure will vary from agency to agency. Some common explanations we’ve come across are:

  • A mismatch of CMS to agency needs
  • Resistance to cultural change
  • Implementation difficulties
  • And a variety of other explanations.

But perhaps the true reason is that the CMS just acts as a simple storage area for the case – the original problems are unaddressed. To achieve increased productivity gains, the system needs to effectively manage and guide the investigation step-by-step. More than just a CMS, it needs to act as an “Investigation Management System”.

CMS vs Investigation Management System

Most CMS are focused on transactional work only. Transactional work is work in which the inputs are well-understood, the outputs are well-understood, and there’s a strong correlation between carrying out a very clear, particular set of actions and consistent transformation of those inputs into corresponding outputs.

Transactional work in the context of investigations are areas of complaint recording, task tracking, link analysis, exhibit management, business reporting and other structured activities. These basic features are often found in many CMS. However, to actually increase the efficiency and quality of investigations, case management systems need to also focus on the exploratory work associated with investigations. This is where CMS exposes its weakness.

Exploratory work is very different in the way that it feels. Exploratory work is often what lurks underneath verbs like “investigate”, “diagnose”, “analyses”, “co-ordinate”, “solve”, “determine”, “arbitrate” and so on.  In exploratory work, as the label suggests, the overall experience for the investigators and other stakeholders is that of a set of possibilities being explored rather than a transactional recipe being followed. It is in this work, that the bulk of the investigation efficiency improvements can be found.

Agencies must ensure they truly understand the characteristics of the harms, risks or issues they are trying to solve and whether they are based on transactional work or exploratory work.  If you don’t understand these characteristics it leads to the implementation of new processes which improve the transactional work and reporting component of investigations – but fail to have any impact on the exploratory work where the true nature of the issues exists.

Agency decision-makers should have a clear understanding of the difference between investigation management tools and case management tools if there is a true desire to increase the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of investigations. As mentioned earlier, there is a common theme that underlies the 7 main risk factors that lead to poor investigations…

A Consistent Investigation Management Methodology Addresses These 7 Risk Factors

That theme is… to have a consistent investigation management methodology. The methodology should be based on three overarching objectives:

  1. It must address the common characteristics of the harms which exist within exploratory work associated with poor investigations.
  2. It must have clear supportive qualities for the investigator to ensure their commitment to its use and implementation.
  3. It must provide a consistent, central and strategic investigation management methodology and deter individual silos of investigation management practices. This ensures the overall team learns and improves with every investigation.

A clear investigation management methodology addresses each of the 7 risk factors and brings continual improvement through every investigation.

Click here to find out more and download our e-guide  Standard Case Management vs. Electronic Investigation Management systems 

That’s why we built Comtrac…

Comtrac is an Investigation Management solution designed with a best-practice methodology for investigation, evidence and brief management. Comtrac focuses on increasing the efficiency and quality of investigations and briefs of evidence through an investigation and evidence management methodology known as Elementising Evidence™.

Whilst many case management systems focus on ‘transactional workflows’ associated with case administration (i.e. workflows with defined inputs and outputs) … Comtrac is built around the ‘exploratory workflows’ of investigation management and brief of evidence preparation.

What are the results of implementing a system like Comtrac to effectively manage your investigations?

In short… A complete paradigm shift in their investigation outcomes. Comtrac customers report that they:

  • Streamline their investigation by an average of 34.5%. (This was based on data collected from 243 Comtrac customers).
  • Ensure consistency in the quality of investigations across every team member – whether they are a junior investigator or a veteran.
  • Easily create, manage and share briefs of evidence at the click of a button – right from the start of the investigation.
  • Keep all investigation stakeholders updated on the progress of the investigation right from the start.
  • Have transparency over every investigation – managers are easily able to track progress and QA every investigation.

Book a demo

Book a demo with a Comtrac Investigation Specialist. In your demo, we will discuss your current Investigation workflow and show you how Comtrac is streamlining investigations for other agencies similar to yours.