Category Archives: investigative case management

Managing Major Cases Part Four: Operational Structures

In the first chapters of this series, Managing Major Cases, I focused on what defines a major case… and what are some of the unique problems associated with different major case ‘types’. For reference, you can find our previous chapters below:

Managing Major Cases: Part One

Managing Major Cases: Part Two

Managing Major Cases: Part Three

In this chapter, I want to overview the operational structure of Major Case Management.

The Command Triangle

Many Commonwealth countries (and some larger US jurisdictions) define Major Case Management roles within what’s called a “Command Triangle”. Specifically, per the diagram below, jurisdictions within countries such as Great Britain, and Canada define three (3) primary roles – a Major Case Manager who is responsible for the effective governance of the investigation, a Primary Investigator who reports to the Major Case Manager, and a File Coordinator who is responsible for coordination for internal communication and case file management.

Let’s take a look at the responsibilities of each role:

MCMT

 

As part of this Command Triangle, the Major Case Manager is accountable for the overall investigation. He or She determines investigation strategies, identifies and manages investigative resources, conducts case reviews, and all other high-level management functions.

The Primary Investigator typically reports to the Major Case Manager and is responsible for tasks including preparation of the case file for status meetings, ensuring that assignments are completed in a timely fashion, identification of resources required for the investigation, and report any major case updates to the Major Case Manager.

Also reporting to the Major Case Manager is the File Coordinator. Their job is also multi-faceted, and includes tasks such as scrutinizing the documents created during the process of the investigation to ensure the completeness and quality, ensuring that tips and leads are assigned and managed, ensuring the security of the case file(s), ensuring that all case actions are logged into the investigative case management software, and more.

Within these three roles are any number of supervisors and line staff that perform interviews, collect evidence, communicate with the media, and so on. Not to beat a dead horse here, but I’ll point out again that all of these roles may be performed by just a few people in some jurisdictions.

The Command Triangle vs. The Major Case Framework

I believe in The Command Triangle model but also strongly support a more US-centric model – The Major Case Framework. Perhaps the differences are subtle, but a Triangle is a hard shape with defined lengths and known, predictable angles. A Framework, however, is just that – a frame which, by nature, allows for additional flexibility than a hard shape. A frame is designed to support a structure, not confine it.

It’s this flexibility that makes the Major Case Framework ideally suited for the U.S. market. By that, I mean there are 200 or 300 law enforcement agencies in Canada, the majority of which have dozens or hundreds of officers. Down here, there are over 18,000 law enforcement agencies ranging in size from NYPD (More than 50,000 Officers) to Frenchtown, New Jersey (3 Officers). This type of variance requires the flexibility of a framework.

So, what is the Major Case Framework?

As noted in discussing The Command Triangle, managing major cases generally consists of organizational groups that perform different, but equally important, roles. The Major Case Framework, however, better recognizes the true nature of investigations by acknowledging from the outset that many, and sometimes all, of the roles are performed by only a small number of individuals and that role flexibility is part of day to day investigation work.

MCMF3_1
There are four main organizational groups within the Major Case Framework. They are defined as:

  1. Command: Personnel who establish standard operating procedures, guidelines, and policies, along with the direction that ensures departmental compliance with mandates and laws. The responsibility for the specific directions that a MCM Team takes falls into the hands of those in the Command role. Some examples of Command roles include Chiefs of Police, Sheriffs, Task Force Commanders, and Commissioners.
  2. Command Staff: Personnel who are charged with the high-level implementation of the policies driven by those in the Command role. CID unit heads, divisional Captains, and task force Directors are examples of the roles that fall into this group.
  3. Supervisor: Personnel who manage, control, and direct the actual resources of the MCM Team. There are any number of ranks that fill this important role, including Lieutenants and Sergeants, but – in general – the Supervisor is the individual who holds responsibility for the actual control of the personnel involved in the daily activities of the investigation.
  4. Line/Support: Personnel who perform the day to day tasks related to the investigation. These are the Detectives, Investigators, Technicians, Deputies, Analysts, and a host of other titles that are working the investigation at the ground level. The success of this organizational group.

As noted in the MCM Framework diagram, in many organizations ‘Commanders’ will find themselves performing Line/Support functions, and Supervisors will often find themselves doing the roles defined in ‘Command Staff’. American Law Enforcement, particularly small and medium-sized agencies and task forces, require the flexibility of the framework in order to succeed.

It is important that any agency’s case management systems and processes allow for the flexibility of both the Command Triangle and the Command Framework.

In Part Five of this series, I’ll examine the topic of “What Do Investigators Do?”

New Doug4Douglas Wood is CEO of Crime Technology Solutions | Case Closed Software, a leading provider of serious investigation software to law enforcement, state bureaus, DA offices, and other investigative units. Doug can be reached directly HERE.

 

Managing Major Cases Part Three: Multi-Incident Major Cases

In Part One of this series, I overviewed a generally-accepted definition of Major Cases, and discussed some of the attributes that define them.

In Part Two, I began to probe the ‘types’ of Major Cases – specifically, Single-Incident Major Cases. These are cases that may, under different circumstances, not be Major Cases but for the identity of the victim, the identity of the suspect, the location of the incident, and/or the uniqueness of the crime.

Here in Part Three, I want to discuss the second ‘type’ of Major Cases – Multi-Incident Major Cases and – specifically – the problems associated with trying to investigate a case while related crimes are still occurring. (Spoiler Alert: It’s stressful)

Based upon interviews I have conducted with CID Commanders, Sheriffs, District Attorneys, and other law enforcement experts, there are several types of Multi-Incident Major Cases. Based on the patterns of the crimes, Multi-Incident Major Cases are classified into three basic categories – Mass crimes, Spree crimes, and Serial crimes

Mass Crimes – A Major Case mass crime involves multiple victims at one location during one continuous period of time, whether it is done within a few minutes or over a period of days. The term ‘mass murder’ springs to mind, and invokes images of Dylann Roof(Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina), James Holmes (2012 Aurora, CO. shooting in which he killed 12 people and injured 70 others at a movie theater), and James Loughner (2011 Tuscon, AZ shooting that killed 6 people and severely wounded US Representative Gabrielle Giffords).

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Dylann Roof, James Holmes, and James Loughner

There are other types of Major Case mass crimes, however, including mass assault, mass human smuggling, and other horrible crimes that need no further illustration here.

Spree Crimes – Spree criminals commit two or more serious crimes with two or more victims, but at more than one location. An important distinction about spree crimes is that there is no ‘cooling off’ period between the crimes.

markbarton
Mark Barton

An unfortunate example of a spree crime is that of Mark Barton. On July 29th, 1999, he walked into his office at Momentum Securities and opened fire, killing four people. Then he went next door to another company and killed five more people. Earlier in the day he had also murdered his wife and their two children. Multiple crimes in multiple locations with no cooling off.

 

Another example of a spree crime is the armed robber who hits a slew of pre-chosen banks on the same day, terrorizing employees in the process. The examples here are too numerous to mention, but they become Major Cases by virtue of their spree qualities. Again, this shows multiple crimes in multiple locations with no cooling off.

Serial Crimes – Serial criminals commit multiple crimes with multiple victims. Unlike spree criminals, however, serial criminals commit their crimes on distinctly separate occasions. There is a cooling off period between crimes.

Uniquely, serial criminals tend to plan their crimes meticulously and pre-select their victims and locations. Unlike mass crimes and spree crimes, serial crimes are differentiated in that the perpetrator tends to carefully select their victims, have cooling-off periods between crimes, and plan them carefully. Examples of serial criminals (especially serial killers) are far too easy to find and include The Zodiac Killer (in California in the late 1960s), Ted Bundy (confessed to killing 30 women), and Dennis Raider (The BTK Murderer who killed 10 people in Wichita between 1974 and 1991

A unique problem with Multiple Incident Major Cases

The major problem for law enforcement investigating Multiple Incident Major Cases, especially those that fall in the ‘serial’ category, is that new crimes are committed even as the investigation is underway. Resources can be stretched to their thinnest when a new crime is added to the serial list, and the public pressure for an arrest can overwhelm even the hardest of investigators. Hello, stress.

stress

A common attribute of the successful serial crime investigators that I have spoken with is their ability to separate the pressure from the work. The crimes and their timing are unpredictable, the public demand for a resolution is powerfully serious, and ‘interested parties’ (think politicians) are breathing down the investigators’ necks. That’s a lot of pressure.

Just as in any profession, untreated stress can lead to major consequences. These consequences not only affect the individual investigator, but also those with whom he or she has daily contact, including family and friends. The investigators I have spoken with help alleviate the pressure through:

  • Taking care of themselves physically,
  • Ensuring that workload is spread as evenly as possible, and
  • Taking time to partake in leisure and family.

(A quick point of clarity and a disclaimer: Any discussion around the differences between mass criminals, spree criminals, and serial criminals is going to be lively, and is an ongoing source for debate among criminologists. This posting will undoubtedly include characteristics and definitions that some readers may not entirely agree with.)

In Part 4 of this special series Managing Major Cases, I will examine the operational structures involved in managing major investigations.

New Doug4Douglas Wood is CEO of Crime Technology Solutions | Case Closed Software, a leading provider of serious investigation software to law enforcement, state bureaus, DA offices, and other investigative units. Doug can be reached directly HERE.

Managing Major Cases Part Two: What puts the ‘Major’ in Major Cases?

In Part One of this series, I provided my definition of Major Cases and went into some detail about some of the attributes that differentiate a Case from a Major Case. Moving ahead now, I want to take a look at the different ‘types’ of Major Cases.

One of the problems in dealing with Major Cases is that, because of the varying types of cases, there’s no firm blueprint for investigating them. Major Cases move in real time, and – based upon interviews I have conducted with Major Case Investigators – can generally fall into one of two categories – Single Incidents and Multiple (serial) Incidents.

This article tackles Single Incident Major Cases.

Single incident Major Cases are defined by one single criminal act so abhorrent to the socio-economic environment, that it alone creates intense pressure to apprehend the perpetrator(s). What makes the incident so abhorrent ranges from factors such as:

The identity of the victim: In September of 1996, at the height of tensions between The Bloods and The Crips, a 25 year old African American man is shot in a drive-by shooting on the streets of Las Vegas and dies a few days later. Unfortunately, young black men die far too frequently in times of gang tensions, and few of these cases ever elevate to the status of a Major Case. The victim here, however, was Tupac Shakur.

Tupac was an American rapper and actor who came to embody the 1990s gangsta-rap aesthetic, and was a key figure in the feud between West Coast and East Coast hip hop artists. Simply put… he was famous as hell. Hence, a far-too-routine shooting became a Major Case in the blink of an eye. The case remains unsolved.

The identity of the suspect(s): “We the jury in the above entitled action find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson, not guilty of the crime of murder.” Thus ended the double murder trial of former NFL player and Heisman Award winner OJ Simpson. In what was deemed ‘The Trial of the Century”, Simpson had been charged with the June 13, 1994 killings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman.

After weeks of testimony, and a clear nation-wide division between those who believed Simpson to be innocent and those who believed him guilty, Simpson was acquitted of the murders on October 3, 1995.

While the case of two relatively young and affluent Caucasians being killed in the generally safe area of Brentwood may have been newsworthy, it was the identity of the suspect that was the catalyst in this becoming one of the most famous single-incident Major Cases in American history.

The location of the crime: When a half-naked corpse, covered in cuts, bruises and bite marks, is found behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York’s Central Park, you have the makings of a Major Case. The corpse was that of 18-year-old Jennifer Dawn Levin. Levin was murdered during the early morning hours of August 26, 1986.

The ‘Met’, as the museum is known, is one of the most-visited and famous museums on the entire planet. Murders don’t happen in world-famous places like this, and the case became the top story on the evening news for months and months. That is one major single-incident Major Case.

After an investigation into what the press dubbed “The Preppie Murder”, college student Robert Chambers was charged and tried for murder. The jury, however, remained deadlocked for nine days and a plea bargain was struck. (Chambers’ defense, you may recall, was that he had killed Ms. Levin during consensual ‘rough sex’.)

The uniqueness of the crime itself: Six year old girls in upscale Colorado neighborhoods aren’t supposed to die. They’re certainly not supposed to be murdered… especially in their own home while the rest of the family slept. Uniqueness has always surrounded the December, 1996 killing of young beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey in Boulder, CO.

On the morning of December 26, 1996, John Ramsey found his daughter’s body with duct tape over her mouth and a cord twisted around her neck in the basement of the family home. John’s wife, Patsy, says she found a ransom note demanding $118,000 for JonBenét’s return – an amount that is purported to match exactly a recent work-related bonus that John Ramsey had received. Despite these odd circumstances, the couple retained lawyers and were not formally interviewed by police for over 4 months. (The case has never been solved, and Boulder Police have cleared the couple of any wrongdoing.)

Tragically, it’s estimated that over 1500 children are murdered each year in America. JonBenét’s case may have been just another number in that truly sad statistic were it not for unique circumstances that surrounded it; it occurred in an upscale neighborhood, the victim was a young beauty queen, the ransom note matching the bonus, a possible crime scene contamination by father John, and ‘seemingly’ uncooperative parents that made this a single-incident Major Case.

In Part Three of this series, we examine some examples and problems associated with Multiple Incident Major Cases.

 

Douglas Wood is CEO of Crime Technology Solutions | Case Closed Software, a leading provider of serious investigation software to law enforcement, state bureaus, DA offices, and other investigative units. Doug can be reached directly HERE.

The Taxman Cometh (With Case Closed Cloud™)

(March 5, 2018) Austin, TX – Case Closed Software® announced today that one of the largest constitutional tax collectors in the state of Florida has selected Case Closed Cloud™ as its next-generation investigative case management platform.
The county office serves approximately 1.5M residents,  and is involved in the collection of taxes and the investigation of all related criminal cases. Through Case Closed Cloud, the agency will easily manage files and documents associated with individual cases and specific case actions.
The agency acts an independent agency to be free from influence by local or state agencies that have the power to levy taxes, and serves the county as its agent for the administration of varying taxes.
“A unique feature of Case Closed Cloud is the ability for agencies to use their own forms in conjunction with the software”, said Douglas Wood, president of Case Closed Software. “The tax collector’s office will have full access to all of the materials they need, wherever they need them, through our cloud-based case management software”.
Case Closed Cloud is an innovative new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) investigation management platform from Crime Tech Solutions, LLC – a leading provider of software to law enforcement, state agencies, and other investigative agencies.
“Case Close Cloud is an innovative new offering, and is already disrupting the case management industry”, said Douglas Wood, the company’s founder and chief executive. “This new customer chose us specifically for our unparalleled feature set, and because they can literally start using the system immediately without any internal IT headaches.”
Case Closed Software offers its software in both ‘on-premise’ and ‘cloud-based’ deployments, meaning that customers can quickly deploy the functionality in the manner that best suits their business requirements.

Big Data Surveillance: The Case of Policing

Posted by Douglas Wood, CEO of Case Closed Software – a leader in investigation software  and analytics for law enforcement.
Headquartered here in Central Texas, I recently had an opportunity to have coffee with Dr. Sarah Brayne, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin. Ms. Brayne had just published an interesting article in The American Sociological Review. The article is titled Big Data Surveillance: The Case of Policing.
The article examines the intersection of two emerging developments: the increase in surveillance and the massive exploration of “big data.” Drawing on observations and interviews conducted within the Los Angeles Police Department, Sarah offers an empirical account of how the adoption of big data analytics does—and does not—transform police surveillance practices.
She argues that the adoption of big data analytics facilitates may amplify previous surveillance practices, and outlines the following findings:

  1. Discretionary assessments of risk are supplemented and quantified using risk scores.
  2. Data tends to be used for predictive, rather than reactive or explanatory, purposes. (Here, Crime Tech Weekly would want to differentiate between predictive analytics and investigation analytics)
  3. The proliferation of automatic alert systems makes it possible to systematically surveil an unprecedentedly large number of people.
  4. The threshold for inclusion in law enforcement databases (gang databases, criminal intelligence data, etc) is lower, now including individuals who have not had direct police contact. (Here again, Crime Tech Weekly would point out that adherence to criminal intelligence best practices vastly reduces this likelihood)
  5. Previously separate data systems are merged, facilitating the spread of surveillance into a wide range of institutions.

Based on these findings, Sarah develops a theoretical model of big data surveillance that can be applied to institutional domains beyond the criminal justice system. Finally, she highlights the social consequences of big data surveillance for law and social inequality.
The full PDF report can be downloaded via Sage Publishing by clicking here. Or, if you have general comments or questions and do not wish to download the full version, please feel free to contact us through the form below. Crime Tech Weekly will be happy to weigh in.

Visallo and Crime Tech Solutions: Partners in Crime-Fighting Software

Sterling, VA (August 24, 2017)Visallo, the Sterling, VA based provider of investigation analytics software, and only true competitor to Silicon Valley giant Palantir, today announced a strategic partnership with Crime Tech Solutions out of Leander, TX.

Visallo_CTSAccording to Jeff Kunkle, President of Visallo, the partnership enhances his company’s suite of easy-to-use, web-based data visualization tools for investigative link analysis, data discovery, crime analytics and geospatial analysis with Crime Tech Solutions’ powerful and flexible Case Closed investigation case management software.

“Visallo is designed for intelligence analysts, law enforcement investigators, and fraud analysts who need easy to use tools to help them discover and visualize complex relationships within vast amounts of data without resorting to time-consuming, ad-hoc, and error-prone manual processes,” said Mr. Kunkle. “These are analysts that want to make sure they don’t miss important non-obvious insights during their investigations, want to produce more accurate, thorough, and defensible conclusions, and ultimately seek to be more accomplished investigators able to tackle the toughest cases.”

Tyler Wood, VP of Operations at Crime Tech Solutions added, “Where Visallo does much of the big data analytics, the Case Closed software is specifically designed for investigative process and major case management. The software manages the entire investigation workflow from start to finish and includes functionality such as task management, alerting, communications, evidence management, and a great deal more.”

Until now, investigative agencies had to turn to multi-million dollar solutions from behemoth multinational companies for this combined functionality. The partnership is designed to give customers more investigation functionality at a price point that can scale down to smaller groups. “For years, only the largest law enforcement and federal agencies could afford to purchase these types of advanced tools,” added Mr. Kunkle. “The partnership between Visallo and Crime Tech Solutions changes that reality.”

The companies have indicated that integration efforts are already underway to ensure a seamless and user-friendly experience.

About Visallo
Visallo helps investigators of all types produce more accurate, thorough, and timely analysis with a software platform to help them discover, visualize, and understand complex relationships hidden in massive amounts of data. Visallo’s all-in-one suite of easy-to-use, web-based, visualization tools and machine learning data analysis algorithms augment the investigator’s hard-earned experience and intuition with data-driven insights that would be difficult, if not impossible, to discover otherwise.

About Crime Tech Solutions
Crime Tech Solutions develops and markets a robust suite of powerful software solutions designed for intelligence and investigation teams. Their flagship products include the popular Case Closed™ investigation platform and IntelNexus™, an advanced criminal intelligence management software.

SoCal City Selects Crime Tech Solutions for Link Analysis.

SoCalCrime Tech Solutions, LLC – a fast growing, vibrant software company based in Leander, TX today announced that a large, coastal city in California has selected them to provide sophisticated link and social network analysis software.
Crime Tech Solutions was awarded the contract based upon its price/performance leadership in the world of big data analytics for law enforcement and other investigative agencies.
Link analysis software is used by investigators to visualize hidden connections between people, places, and things within large and disparate data sets.
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“Our link analysis software gives investigators an edge in the way they analyze data”, said Crime Tech Solutions’ CEO, Doug Wood. “By finding and displaying those hard to find connections and anomalies that reside in different data stores, our software helps investigative agencies more clearly see how networks of entities exist.”
Crime Tech Solutions said that the software implementation is already underway, and that the software will make life a little more miserable for criminals in the Southern California city.
The company also develops investigative case management and criminal intelligence software for law enforcement agencies of all sizes.