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
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
accidents. In these types of investigations, a drawing shows
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
Once filed, reports on minor traffic accidents with no
njuries are often forgotten, never to be seen again. But, this
s not the case with reports on major accident investigations.
and jury will scrutinize these reports should cases go to
litigation. In these instances, it is important that the
The same holds true for accounts of crime scenes. In their
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
nvestigation and prosecution that must be carefully noted.
And, in many instances, the precision and detail of the report
THE WORKINGS OF A CAD PROGRAM
Reconstructing an accident or crime scene requires the
nvestigator 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
ntersections and roadways, or buildings and rooms, onto which
nformation 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
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
users can create their own symbols and store them to be
ADVANTAGES OF CAD PROGRAMS
Using a CAD program for accident or crime scene
the investigator to add to the diagram at any time, and the
s created, it can be resized to fit available space on a
also be made large enough for a courtroom exhibit. The finished
oftentimes reflect poorly on the quality of the investigation.
With CAD programs, there is no mess; erasures or corrections
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
consuming, which may result in a backlog of projects. Also,
additional meetings with investigators may be required to
There is also the time factor to consider. Some detailed
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
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
Oftentimes, additional copies of drawings need to be made
for defense attorneys and prosecutors. Large drawings are not
and do not show details clearly. With a CAD program, making
multiple copies is a simple matter.
There are CAD programs on the market that have been
cost-effective, and the funds spent for them are quickly
and expand the potential of their computer systems.
Information for this column was submitted by Joseph E.
Badger, a retired Indiana State police sergeant.