Forensic

Its been a busy few weeks!

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At the beginning of April, I was over in Canada with the Ontario Forensic Video Analysts Association. Many regular readers will know that this has become an annual visit for me, and it is always an honor to be invited back. During this event I presented several workshops built around the events theme of ‘Workflow’.

A few weeks later I was in Sweden, presenting workshops on Forensic Video Analysis and Amped FIVE. This was a different type type of event, with staff from all forms of digital investigation; cellphones, computers, networks and multimedia.

In Canada it was purely video analysts, technicians and investigators.

What links the two, is that both regions have identified the importance of video investigation and its place within their policing communities. It is firmly positioned within the forensic world and given the funding to enable training and equipment.

Next week, I will be with Amped Software at Forensic Europe Expo, Olympia, London.

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I will be presenting more workshops, one on Amped FIVE and another on Amped Authenticate.

Authenticate has become the essential software for identifying manipulation in digital images so i’m really looking forward to highlight some of its unique abilities.

There is one word that continues to appear through all of these events and software….

FORENSIC

Meaning: “Relates to, or identifies, the application of scientific methods and/or techniques used in the investigation of crime”.

It is vital that we, as image / video analysts keep this in mind. For most, and most readers of this blog, it’s pretty much an unconscious action. However, there are many people who deal with images and video that are not aware of its importance, and continue to handle, process, view and produce multimedia in a manner that does not fall within forensic guidelines. Some people are even developing procedures that assist in this approach, thereby putting users at risk.

Its up to us then to help and educate these people. We must explain why video needs to be dealt with forensically. From Acquisition to court room, and in a manner that holds no prejudice or bias, regardless of who is conducting the work.

If you are visiting FEE next week, I look forward to chatting with you, and showing how Amped software ensures that you can meet the forensic requirement of image and video analysis, without the headaches.

By Spreadys Posted in EEPIP

For UK Law Enforcement Video Labs…Time is not on your side!

In the next few weeks, the various sections of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 will come into force in the UK.

One of those sections has been hotly debated, and reported on, by all sides of the Criminal Justice system.

There will now be a 28-day limit to the amount of time a person can be bailed pending charge. There are certain extension possibilities, but these must be heavily scrutinized and justified by senior officers.

Although designed to stop lengthy periods of pre-charge bail, from a Forensic Video Analysis point of view, I have some concerns…

There are already huge pressures on Detectives and Investigating Officers to get though their ballooning workloads. This limit will only increase the pressure.

With video and images, they must be dealt with correctly. Conducting any process quickly, must be completed by someone with the required competency.

Let me give you an example….

An officer attends at a premise to view and assess the CCTV in relation to an offence. They have minimal knowledge and training on the multimedia evidence so two things usually happen..

  • They record the footage, as its displayed on the CCTV monitor, on their personal mobile phone or agency supplied tablet or Bodycam.
  • They ask the owner of the CCTV to export them the footage.

The officer then does their best to view the footage on police systems and perhaps obtains some still images using some screen snipping tool or a player’s built-in saving function.

From there, that evidence; the video and the stills, go into evidence and the case proceeds….

Is the evidence correct?

Is it the original evidence?

Has it been processed correctly?

Has it been interpreted correctly?

Have the wrong decisions been made because of errors in interpretation?

 

You may think this is an exaggeration!..

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-east-wales-31098086

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-38371769

…and on that second one, Judge Rafferty stated, “there must never be another case in this country where those analyzing CCTV don’t have the best equipment.”

I have other examples, but you should get the picture (no pun intended)!

The point to all this is that, in order to quickly obtain and deal with the evidence, corners are being cut.

Time is no longer on an investigating officers side. Being forced into making quick decisions could be detrimental to the innocent, and provide an easy escape to the guilty.

Police Forces in the UK need to identify solutions to speed up the process of initial investigation, the correct decision making and the professional output of CCTV material.

…and all of this needs to be aligned with the requirements of the Forensic Science Regulator (FSR) and best practices for the analysis of CCTV and Digital Multimedia Evidence.

I was a huge advocate of many different pieces of software and analysis tools whilst a CCTV Investigator within UK Policing. Over the years I have written about many of them here on my blog.

Some would take time to learn and understand the various issues. Then, using them to extract, convert, analyse, interpret and present the visual evidence would take time to validate each process and ensure image integrity throughout the chain.

 

It’s clear, with the reduction in competent staff, that Forces are not seeing the ticking ‘time’ bomb.

Lack of directed training for first responders and detectives, lack of resources for investigators, lack of knowledge by ‘managers’ who believe, “it’s just a video!”. There are actually ‘managers’ who believe that an expertise in video is pointless!

I no longer use 5-10 different pieces of software during my investigations. I have not got the time.

I need to use as little as possible. I need to know that I can rely on what I am seeing. I can trust what I am presenting, and I can repeat my process if required.

Amped FIVE has quickly become the one-stop-shop for Forensic Video Analysis. It gives me the confidence to quickly make the right decisions. Even when negative, I can still state, quickly, that a request is not possible or that the data is not there. No time wasted, no need to continue down this path…. No need to extend bail!

Get it, deal with it, output, report….. quick, simple, powerful, and with all the reporting features you will need to comply with FSR guidance, regardless of what ISO standard they eventually settle on.

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When I’m in the UK, I run FREE Demo Days for UK Law enforcement up and down the country. If you want to see how FIVE can help you beat that 28 day limit then just drop me a message at my Amped mail:  david.spreadborough (a) ampedsoftware.com.

Decode, view, analyze, restore, enhance, write and present….You can even capture, redact & convert…… all from the same application.

If you want to learn more, just ask!

By Spreadys Posted in EEPIP

LEVA Training in the UK

Proving a competency starts with training. It’s not all about the training…but that’s where it starts!

Many people will have followed my adventures over the years, travelling all the way over to Indianapolis to receive training in Forensic Video Analysis courtesy of LEVA. I still remember my excitement at receiving my scholarship to attend Level 1, my arrival at the fantastic city, and the warmth afforded to me from my American colleagues.

I shall also not forget the numerous ‘Holy Shit’ moments!

Prior to receiving the training I had learned most things from books, internet research and the old faithful –  trial and error! This however, took me back to basics. Most importantly though I learnt that that not knowing something was not a problem with me – It was just that I never knew that I needed to know it.

That point has stuck with me, and I mention it whilst training officers and staff myself in the Amped Software Forensic Image products. “You don’t know, what you don’t know!”

After many years of training and study (many paid personally by me), I was a very proud guy when I was certified as a Forensic Video Analyst by LEVA.

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It has taken many years of work to get LEVA to the UK …..but they are now going through the final stages of preparations to conduct Level 1 and Level 2 in Greater Manchester Police.

There are still places left!

I know it’s coming up to the end of the financial year but, is there any money left in the pot? I know things are tight and money for training is unbelievably limited, but it’s worth asking the question!

One of the key benefits of LEVA training is its consideration to the importance of workflow. They don’t just say, “this is how you should acquire the footage”, but this is why.. and when you have it, this is what you can do with it, and this is how, and this is how to document the process……

Getting it, processing it, viewing it, analysing it, interpreting it, enhancing it, presenting it…..You get the picture!!!

It’s one of the reasons why I chose to use Amped FIVE, and then work with Amped. I had learnt that dealing with images and video required a sound forensic platform, and Amped provided that.

The First course (Level 1) is 20th – 24th March 2017

The second (Level 2) is 15th-19th May 2017

I’ll be at both, assisting my friends from across the pond with translation!

If you want to know more click here, or for more informal discussions, drop me a mail to david.spreadborough (a) ampedsoftware.com

Getting on the training ladder is now so important. If you can get on it now, then you will be more prepared for the future.

By Spreadys Posted in EEPIP

Integration Again!

I have written about the importance of integration many times. I have also written many times about the everyday frustrations of law enforcement and security personnel when dealing with surveillance video.

Two things caught my eye yesterday whilst scrolling down my twitter feed.

The first was Panasonics new i-PRO EXTREME Camera range.

http://security.panasonic.com/extreme/

You may want to turn the volume down if playing the video..its a little Extreme!

 

The alarm bells started ringing…

“Extreme Compression”

“H.265 Compression + Smart Coding Technology”

“Intelligent Face Compression”

“Extreme Data Security”

Now then…. Many people may be thinking – all that sounds great, what’s your problem?

Well, Panasonic Surveillance Video and many of their proprietary recording methods, such as in-car video have always been a complete pain in the backside to deal with forensically.

If I am unable to analyse a video file without the manufacturers proprietary player/codec then I may not be able to independently validate it. I may also be unable to analyse it fully and may have to deal with unknown variables in my reporting. It also takes twice as long to deal with as I have to get it out of one system and into another to manage for a case file.

The cause is the use of proprietary encoding.

Years ago, certain big players in the surveillance industry got a bit carried away and created some real Frankenstein encoders. Advertised to save bandwidth and storage space but retaining image quality. The problem was that these were terrible when it came to using them as evidence.

And that’s the reason why a DVR/NVR is there…. The video is being stored for later use… and most of that is for it to be used as evidence! Whether its a crime caught on camera, a suspicious incident or an employee breaching safety regulations.

Take another look at those headline points…

I need to know, how and what is compressed, and the differences between certain parts of an image. Is it new data, is it copied, has it come from other parts in the image?

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Mpeg Macroblock analysis in Amped FIVE

Is there encryption in the file, blocking me from analyzing it or converting it? …. And yes, we can convert when required, and if completed in a way that does not affect the information.

You may remember that I said that two things caught my eye. This was the second.

https://techcrunch.com/2017/01/26/gms-new-sdk-for-in-car-infotainment-apps-offers-access-to-nearly-400-data-points/

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The article details GM’s new Software Development Kit (SDK) for app makers. It opens the door to nearly 400 different pieces of vehicle information that can be used by an application on the vehicles in-car system.

So, I wonder if Panasonic are doing something similar for their proprietary video. Will they open the door with an SDK, allowing companies like Amped Software to fully understand and deal with their video forensically?

If not – why not? We are all on the same side… we should be working together… we should be integrating!

Look at the Milestone Integration with Amped FIVE for example. You can complete the entire forensic acquisition process and/or the analysis and investigation stage – all within the software.

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Dealing with Surveillance video is made so much harder when systems are locked down, and use a language nobody else understands or can interpret.

Open the door and integrate!

By Spreadys Posted in EEPIP

An Expert in what?

There have been a number of reports and news articles over the past few weeks that have caused me to stop and think. Each one, along with some pretty interesting telephone calls, have raised my concern on how things within the Forensic Video world are moving, especially in the UK.

Shortly before Christmas, I sat down with a Collision Investigator. It was a fascinating chat and I learned as much from him as he did from me. The point of the chat was to identify what his staff needed, in terms of software and knowledge, in order to correctly acquire, process, play, enhance and interpret digital video. In a nutshell, he left with the advice to invest in Amped FIVE. I know how well it is suited to his needs as I have trained a number of Collision Investigators in its use, and have witnessed first hand how it is helping their case work.

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The other piece of information he left with was to identify who the Forensic Video Analysts were that he could turn to and trust.

I believe this to be the most important point. He understood that he was an expert in collision investigation. He was not an expert in Video. He understood the importance of knowing your own limitations and what you are an expert in.

I am clear on my own limitations. I am an expert in Video.

Oxford Dictionary: Expert

“A person who is very knowledgeable about or skillful in a particular area”

I am not an expert in Audio. I understand a lot, and can do certain things within my capabilities but anything ‘forensic’ – I call on the assistance of a suitably qualified forensic audio analyst.

What other forensic disciplines require the use of a Forensic Video Analyst?

What about Facial Comparisons – the so called ‘Facial Mapping’?

This came up again in the latest Forensic Regulators Report (Sec 1.9).

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/581653/FSR_Annual_Report_v1.0.pdf

So, you are an expert in facial morphology? You have degrees, and doctorates, and have been researching it for years.

However, is the evidence admissible when the video used was never authenticated, it is proved not to be the original, and the incorrect processing has resulted in its aspect ratio being distorted.

If only the video had been dealt with by someone who was an expert in …video!

What about Gait analysis?

Digital video, and especially IP based systems are notoriously random. From variable frame rates, to the prediction of movement and the copying of data to reduce file size. How important is it to identify these issues if you are using a piece of CCTV in an attempt to analyze someones gait?

If a proprietary format has been trans-coded to make it easily playable, has the frame rate or encoding type changed certain aspects?

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…but an Expert in what?

The UK CPS Guidance on expert evidence gives the Definition of Expert Witness as:

“A witness who provides to the court a statement of opinion on any admissible matter calling for expertise by the witness and is qualified to give such an opinion”.

http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/assets/uploads/files/expert_evidence_first_edition_2014.pdf

Oxford Dictionary: Opinion

“A view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge”

I, however, like to deal with facts. I can use my expertise to identify facts. I can analyze a video to identify facts. I can enhance an image to identify facts. I can report and present those facts to other experts who can then use their expertise to identify… more facts!

So we have a situation where video is being sent to experts; collision, facial mapping, gait etc. and the video is wrong! Why?…. Because the Video is being dealt with incorrectly to start with, and those experts do not know this…because they are not experts in Video!

This is what concerns me. It’s actually scary. What makes it worse is that there are a number of UK Forces where senior officers actually don’t want experts in Video. I thought we were moving forward from a few years ago when I was told that I had “built an expertise that the force no longer required!”

Apparently not. There are some Forces simply holding off from working towards ISO 17025, and thereby ensuring the competency of their staff and the strength of their analysis.

I recently heard of one senior officer who disagreed that Video analysis was a forensic discipline and as such anybody could process the video – because it was quicker!

The CPS are still requesting processed video that they can play on a DVD player regardless of the errors…. and these then end up being sent to other experts!

My concerns are here, and plain to see (or read).

There are video experts for a reason, and they ‘should’ be in every police service or investigative agency in the world…. because if that original video is not handled correctly,everything after; from speed, to face, to gait – could be wrong!

By Spreadys Posted in EEPIP