The COLLECTORS ranking scale for ‘at‐scene’ digital device triage

Graeme Horsman

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As digital evidence now features prominently in many criminal investigations, such large volumes of requests for the forensic examination of devices has led to well publicized backlogs and delays. In an effort to cope, triage policies are frequently implemented in order to reduce the number of digital devices which are seized unnecessarily. Often first responders are tasked with performing triage at scene in order to decide whether any identified devices should be seized and submitted for forensic examination. In some cases, this is done with the assistance of software which allows device content to be “previewed”; however, in some cases, a first responder will triage devices using their judgment and experience alone, absent of knowledge of the devices content, referred to as “decision-based device triage” (DBDT). This work provides a discussion of the challenges first responders face when carrying out DBDT at scene. In response, the COLLECTORS ranking scale is proposed to help first responders carry out DBDT and to formalize this process in an effort to support quality control of this practice. The COLLECTORS ranking scale consists of 10 categories which first responders should rank a given device against. Each devices cumulative score should be queried against the defined “seizure thresholds” which offer support to first responders in assessing when to seize a device. To offer clarify, an example use-case involving the COLLECTORS ranking scale is included, highlighting its application when faced with multiple digital devices at scene.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Academy of Forensic Sciences

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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