Investigative case management is a series of procedures for tracking investigations and the material people generate while conducting them. Law enforcement agencies, as well as private investigators and attorneys, rely on their procedures for case management to make sure material does not fall through the cracks. A number of companies produce software to assist people with this process, making it easier to generate, store, and retrieve information over the course of investigating a case.
When people investigate cases, they need to be able to collect and store data in a useful and meaningful way so they can access it later, and to make information sharing available to other people in an office or agency who might have an interest in the case. Historically, investigative case management required people to start paper files to track evidence collection, record the outcome of various lines of inquiry, and so forth. Today, computers replace much of the paper filing, allowing people to quickly record and access data.
In investigative case management, people assign case numbers, logging the number with evidence they collect so it can be easily found again. They make sure to record data at every step of the investigation, along with supporting references. Digital images and other electronic material can be stored in a computer case file, but it may also be necessary to store physical evidence, and provide information to help people find it, such as a note about the location of the data.
People use investigative case management to keep track of materials and also for the purpose of staying on task with an investigation. It is necessary to pursue every line of inquiry and record the outcome, making careful data collection and organization very important. Supervisors can review the files to see how an investigation is proceeding and to make suggestions to help people close the case. Active information sharing also allows people to do things like connecting related cases, identifying persons of interest, and so forth.
Computer programs for investigative case management can streamline the process. They usually make it very easy to enter data so people have an incentive to enter material as they find it, rather than recording after the fact at the end of the day or week. Many provide multiple filing and sorting systems to help people arrange material in a way they will find most useful, and they can also interface with computer networks to provide access to law enforcement databases, other case files, and materials of general interest.