Ongoing criminal cases are managed with the support an event log, updated by investigators with chronological entries and distributed activities. In large-scale investigations, this flat structure can slow down the tracking of progress and actions, and make them more difficult to understand.
In the tech industry, Kanban boards and Agile methodology are used to manage the development of any given software development or project delivery. By researching techniques from other industries, we investigated ways to improve the usability and utility of information for case management to help officers manage and visualise their investigations more easily.
Agile methodologies provide delivery guidelines through regular reflective iterations. They focus on targeting known benefits, adapting as new discoveries are made. This has advantages over static ‘waterfall’ models, which rely on teams following a sequence of steps, until phases are completed. If the requirements are faulty or errors are discovered late, problems arise which can be costly.
Kanban originates from manufacturing, and focuses on Kanban ‘boards’. Recently adopted into Agile methodologies, it provides the means to monitor, share and maintain a flow of activity easily. Tasks are divided into states, such as in progress or done, as well as labels to capture priorities and action types. They can also be assigned to one or more team members, allowing responsibilities to be managed across a project or case. These boards support a collaborative environment, often utilising notes and whiteboards.
With digital platforms becoming more relied upon during the COVID-19 pandemic and following a greater move to hybrid working, we have prototyped an electronic Kanban board. Built on open-source technology, it allows cases to be managed by a number of different investigators.
In our prototype (above) operators are investigating a robbery in the Newbury area. Traditional log entries are flat (right), while the Kanban board allows activities to be tracked quickly and in an agile manner. Completed actions, such as the arrest of the suspect, are moved to the ‘done pile’, and latest evidence can be added to the list and presented graphically via maps. Through such searchable, interactive and lightweight platforms, cases may become more-intuitive and simpler to manage.
Following this pilot, future development could include the design of a bespoke system that allows law enforcement clients to benefit from this methodology. It will also enable them to customise commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology to best fit their requirements.
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