Meet SPDs newest Information Technology Support Specialist.
Tim Clemans, an SPD information technology support specialist, is still working on side projects. The beta version of this one, which allows you to send evidence directly to police departments, is now live. Go try it out. Ansel Herz

Tim Clemans, the programmer who bombarded SPD with records requests to force transparency until the department took the unusual step of hiring him, wants the world to know about a nifty website he's created so you can send police evidence directly:

The website allows anyone to upload files, including photos and video, to a server. Then it sends an e-mail to the police department of your choice with a link to the files. Clemans said he created it in a few hours in his spare time.

"I didn't want to do it under the SPD umbrella because it might take months," he said. "I'm not asking their permission. I'm just solving this problem."

Some Washington counties are currently testing next-generation 911 technology to enable citizens to report crimes in ways that go beyond talking over a phone line. But according to Clemans, those technologies are limited to sending texts to 911. Recently, federal Communications Chair Tim Wheeler complained that departments across the country aren't moving fast enough to true next-generation technology.

"It seems to me like it will be several years before you can text photos and videos to the department," Clemans said. And what about footage from, say, a surveillance camera that can't be texted from a smartphone? For now, the 24-year-old programmer said, the new website represents "interim solution."

At the local level, Clemans continued, "What's happening right now is that Seattle police say they're shortstaffed. So it can take hours to show up at somebody's home... The challenge is that on these property crimes, for example, let's say you snap a photo of who broke into the car. You have to wait hours for a police officer to come pick it up. And even then, I'm not sure it gets distributed very well."

"Now, citizens don't have to worry about cops accepting evidence," Clemans added. "They can just push it to them now."

So, can you trust the site? And how, exactly, does it work? According to Clemans, the evidence is uploaded to his Amazon cloud storage account. If you tell the website you want the evidence sent to SPD, an e-mail is sent to department employees containing a link to download the evidence. The message includes an auto-generated hash code verifying that the files haven't been modified since they were uploaded, Clemans explained.

For other departments around the country, for now, the e-mail notification goes to Clemans. Until those agencies use the site to register themselves, Clemans said he'll manually forward the evidence that comes in. I tested the site twice by uploading images. Clemans said they came through, and forwarded me a copy of the message sent to SPD, which included a link to the image. Here's what it said:

This is an automated email from alerting you to potiential evidence of a crime submitted by a site user.

address_where_occurred: 1055-1099 East Pine Street, Seattle, WA 98122, USA
is_test: no
police_department: Seattle, Washington Police
additional_info: Test #2

The evidence uploaded:

Untitled-1.png MD5 hash (for chain of custody): "ed39150c57b7d87a3249a6f74cb59ec7"

He said departments should contact him and link their own servers with the website so that the evidence goes directly to them. They could set it up so that Clemans's site can only send material, not access it.

Clemans has made the source code available to anyone here, and he's open to collaboration to improve the site's look and functionality. "Next generation 911 is taking years to implement and millions of dollars," he told me. "I developed this app in a few hours and only paid $10 for the domain name. If government were to focus on tiny new apps, it would be more effective and efficient."

SPD spokesperson Sean Whitcomb said the site is still in beta and it's too early to say whether the department will actually be using it. But, he added: "We are always interested in new technology and looking for ways to improve the experience those who need our services."