Changes in priorities, and the need to invest in the future, now brings a great opportunity for Police Forces to adjust the equipment and software required to achieve Forensic Video Analysis within their working environment.
Over the past few months I have spent as much time as possible, in between conducting international training for Amped Software, visiting UK Police Forces and understanding some of the key challenges they face when conducting Forensic Video Analysis (FVA).
Remember, FVA is a huge subject and can encompass everything from acquisition of Digital Multimedia Evidence, through processing, restoration, redaction, identification, comparison and onto presentation. As such, the discussions have been passionate and diverse.
There has been a common theme to some of the conversations though, and it is one that I have often remarked on during other blog posts and articles in recent years. That is, the delicate balancing act between the requirements of the Forensic Regulator in the UK, and the requirements of the Criminal Justice System.
Now, you would think that the two would be aligned but it’s not that simple….
The problem, in my opinion, is down to several factors.
Firstly, we have the decimation of the Dedicated Video Units. Huge financial decisions have been made throughout the Police Service and, in many areas, the specialized units have been closed to reduce costs. If the requirements for FVA were reducing, then this would be understandable; but they aren’t, the’re increasing!
The consequences of not having the support of dedicated experts means that tasks must be completed by people that perhaps do not have the correct knowledge or understanding. Experts still in post may be forced to using equipment and software that is not suited to the task due to purchasing restraints.
Next up, we have the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). In the UK, these are the people that prosecute the person charged with an offence. To put it simply, it’s the Police’s job to find the evidence and the CPS’s job to present that evidence to a court. They are under immense pressure to to get through cases and as such, rather than the investigator providing and presenting the best evidence, the decision of what gets presented may simply come down to the prosecutor requiring an easy and quick solution.
When video evidence is presented in a court room, there is a very simple standard to meet – it must be a reliable, true and accurate representation of the event. There are obviously many other admissibility and legal issues to deal with but that one statement covers a multitude of points.
Now, what happens then when an image from CCTV is captured incorrectly. Does the person capturing that image know what they are doing is wrong? They may not have received any training or guidance and they may believe that what they are doing is right. They may also not have had up-to-date training. They may have had vendor specific training many years ago on equipment that is no longer fit for purpose.
That image then gets into the Criminal Justice System. The management of that image may be tracked and the evidential chain may be complete. Thus, it’s validity does not get questioned. It may even be proven that the management of the exhibit complies with other regulations or guidance. However, at no point does anyone check the original evidence, the acquisition, or the creation of the exhibit being produced.
The situation is a ticking time bomb!
The UK Forensic Regulator states that all processing of Video Evidence being put before the courts must comply with ISO 17025 by October 2017.
Here lies the conflict – how can the Police complete the tasks required correctly, by people with the right knowledge, and provide the evidence required within the timescales, all in a manner that will comply with forensic guidelines?
Answer = Re-evaluation!
In my trips, up and down the country, I have been to some of the biggest video units and to some of the smallest. I have spent time with people who are extremely knowledgeable in Forensic Video Analysis and with others who were a little shocked at what they didn’t know!
The ones moving forward, were the ones who had taken that step to re-evaluate their needs.
They stripped down the huge racks of VHS decks, analogue de-multiplexers and multiple DVD recorders. They cut back on the huge workstations with in-line scan converters and input/output devices. They reduced the number of software solutions that enabled many old legacy formats to be dealt with.
Yes, they still needed to retain certain items and keep them available, but they were not being used on a daily, weekly or sometimes monthly basis.
They identified what they needed to use every day. By investing in this area, they are then able to achieve what was being asked of them, and comply with all regulations.
This is where Amped FIVE (Forensic Image and Video Enhancement) comes in.
It is a simple, clean application for the viewing, analysis, processing and investigation of images and video within a forensic environment. It manages all the tasks you need to do every day, and gives you the ability to restore and enhance images and video that may not be of the highest quality (that’s most then!)
It gives you the ability to analyse and understand the media you are investigating and present the video and images in any way required.
It automatically tracks what you are doing and creates a full forensic report for complete repeat-ability. This is a key component in producing evidence for a court.
It is software only, with full training and support available.
Investment in FIVE is not an extra – it is purely an evolution of what has come before.
There is no need to carry on paying for legacy systems, the investment in those happened 5-10 years ago. Analogue de-multiplexers were £8000 each, and there was one on every CCTV investigators desk along with all the other connected equipment. The PC system also had to be considered – and this needed to be a high-end specification!
There is no need to continue investing in legacy software. One or two licences within the video lab will suffice. You need software to deal with the footage you receive every day, not once a month if you are lucky! Many of the first and second generation formats that those software solutions assisted with were common 5 years ago; now they are hardly seen.
In conclusion, it’s time to re-think. It’s time to make some decisions and start looking to tomorrow.
Amped are already there. With software solutions designed for today and tomorrows requirements, the challenges of Forensic Video Analysis diminish.
Jump on board – you won’t regret it!
To learn more about Amped FIVE check out the main page HERE
To see the development cycle and the constant improvements and new features being added, look at the Amped Blog.
To assist, here are links to the last three Amped FIVE Update posts:
To help your situation further, you now also have DVRConv available to you.
The words quick and easy are often bounced around, when looking for software solutions. Well, DVRConv is both!
Take a look at a recent post of mine on how it works..
This is the desktop solution that everyone wants. No need for new hardware or processing ‘kiosks’. Install, run – away you go!
I hope this helps to give you some ideas on how you can start moving away from the equipment of yesterday, and start using the software for tomorrow.