Friday, November 14, 2014

Article Number: 9908


February 1991







POLICE PRACTICES:



COMPUTER AIDED DRAFTING FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT







Today, computers are used extensively in police work.



Current computer programs accommodate practically every police



function--records management, dispatching, personnel scheduling,



and supply maintenance, to name only a few applications. But,



are departments using computers to their fullest potential? In



many instances, the answer is "No!"





One area often overlooked involves installing computer-



aided drafting (CAD) software into computers. With CAD



software, the computer is used to assist with a drawing or a



design.





Most people would ask why a police department would need a



CAD program; after all, cops don't design or draw anything.



However, the value of this software package becomes obvious



considering the reoccurring need of police officers to



reconstruct crime scenes or to diagram scenes of traffic



accidents. In these types of investigations, a drawing shows



what occurred and reinforces the narrative of the report.





USES OF CAD





In a traffic accident report, the details included are most



likely proportional to the seriousness of the incident.



Usually, a minor "fender-bender" only qualifies for a few terse



lines telling what happened and a very simple diagram. On the



other hand, a multivehicle accident involving serious injuries



or fatalities dictates a more comprehensive investigation, one



that includes a detailed narrative and a scale drawing of the



accident site.





Once filed, reports on minor traffic accidents with no



injuries are often forgotten, never to be seen again. But, this



is not the case with reports on major accident investigations.



Insurance claims adjusters, lawyers, and perhaps even a judge



and jury will scrutinize these reports should cases go to



litigation. In these instances, it is important that the



diagram of the accident scene be as detailed and precise as



possible.





The same holds true for accounts of crime scenes. In their



reports, investigators must show an entire overview of the crime



scene, as well as specific areas crucial to the case. This



usually requires more than one drawing. The position of the



victim, the location of the weapon and other pertinent evidence,



and entrances and exits to the crime scene are factors in the



investigation and prosecution that must be carefully noted.



And, in many instances, the precision and detail of the report



reflect the quality of the investigation and credibility of the



investigators.





THE WORKINGS OF A CAD PROGRAM





Reconstructing an accident or crime scene requires the



investigator to show exactly what transpired, who was involved,



and the position of the objects involved. All this is



facilitated with a CAD program, because it contains pre-drawn



intersections and roadways, or buildings and rooms, onto which



information can be entered.





For example, in figure 1 (not shown in BBS version of this



article), the investigator positioned the vehicles involved in



a traffic accident, showed the direction in which the vehicles were



traveling, and indicated tire marks, visual obstructions,



traffic signs, and the scale of the diagram in feet. For a



crime scene investigation, a CAD program can be used to draw a



general view of the area and then to "zoom in" to a specific



room.





CAD programs also offer a variety of fonts and styles of



letters to show differentiations in the diagram and to give the



finished product a professional appearance. Some CAD programs



allow for letters and numbers to be indicated at any angle and



at any scale. CAD programs normally include a library of



symbols, such as vehicles, traffic signs, etc., to be used for



reconstruction purposes. And, once familiar with the program,



users can create their own symbols and store them to be



retrieved for future application.





ADVANTAGES OF CAD PROGRAMS





Using a CAD program for accident or crime scene



reconstruction offers many benefits. First, there is the



professional appearance of the diagram. A CAD program allows



the investigator to add to the diagram at any time, and the



diagram can be enlarged and reduced at any time. Once a diagram



is created, it can be resized to fit available space on a



preprinted report form. With a plotter, the same drawing can



also be made large enough for a courtroom exhibit. The finished



product is clean and free of corrections. Sloppy drawings



oftentimes reflect poorly on the quality of the investigation.



With CAD programs, there is no mess; erasures or corrections



simply do not show up on the finished product.





CAD programs prevent duplication of effort, because only



one drawing needs to be made. Then with a few keystrokes on the



computer, sections can be shown from different angles.





Many departments contract with draftsmen or engineers to



produce scale drawings. This can be quite expensive and time



consuming, which may result in a backlog of projects. Also,



additional meetings with investigators may be required to



decipher notes or measurements.





There is also the time factor to consider. Some detailed



scale drawings consume considerable workhours before they are



completed. Then, if an error is detected, the entire project



might have to be redone. With a computer and a CAD program,



alterations are generally simple and the time required to do



them is minimal. Enlargements or reductions, which would mean



additional hours at the drawing table, are produced in a matter



of seconds.





Storing or filing scale drawings also poses problems. A



large-scale drawing on a big sheet of poster board is difficult



to store since it doesn't fit in filing cabinets. As a result,



the drawing is placed wherever there is room--behind a desk, in



a storage room, next to a filing cabinet. If it is moved for



one reason or another, it may never be found. And, the more the



drawing is used in presentations, the more "worn" it becomes.





Oftentimes, additional copies of drawings need to be made



for defense attorneys and prosecutors. Large drawings are not



photo copied easily, and photographs take too long to process



and do not show details clearly. With a CAD program, making



multiple copies is a simple matter.





CONCLUSION





There are CAD programs on the market that have been



developed specifically for accident and crime scene



reconstructions. Most of the programs are inexpensive and



cost-effective, and the funds spent for them are quickly



recouped in workhours saved. With a CAD program, police



departments, regardless of size, can increase their efficiency



and expand the potential of their computer systems.





_______________





Information for this column was submitted by Joseph E.



Badger, a retired Indiana State police sergeant.


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