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Do citizens have a right to video record police offers?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

The following article is a culmination of information generated by our research team at Primeau Forensics on how to record police officers. Our goal is to answer the question ‘do citizens have a right to video record police officers’? To best answer this question, Primeau Forensic staff surveyed police officers, law enforcement leadership, concerned citizens, and attorneys to present their answers about video recording and assisting police officers.  Their answers are included in the following article.  Concerned citizens can actually assist police officers and employ proper methods when video recording. Always remember, everyone’s safety is a top priority!

The specific details expressed in this post are based primarily on Michigan law. However, this information we have gathered and presented in this article is universal. If you are reading outside the United States of America, consider laws that may be enforced in your community or jurisdiction.

The department of homeland security has a saying “if you see something say something.” Our philosophy is, “if you see something, film something.”

In a public place where there is no expectation of privacy, a concerned citizen is allowed to record video police officers or take pictures. However, A concerned citizen cannot video record in a manner in which they are considered interfering with the event or investigation. This includes video recording or entering too close within the officer’s tactical operating area. Again, safety is priority. Interference to an investigation diverts the police officers attention or reduces their focus. In other words, “does the police officer consider that you are interfering with the investigation at that time” ? If you are warned by the officer during a video recording, adjust your approach, where you’re standing, and what you’re filming.

Working with a police officer and not against them

Be aware that an officer may have a tremendous amount on his or her mind. They may be in a heightened sense of awareness from this critical incident or a previous incident to the one you are currently video recording. Keep this in mind when you are video recording police officers.

If you are a video recording witness, write down your name and number for the police officer and mention you saw what happened. That way they will contact you later if you can assist with the investigation. If the police officer is unavailable or too busy at the time, you can supply this information to their shift supervisor.

On the other hand, you have a right to remain anonymous and video record police officers. As a concerned citizen, you can request to remain an anonymous witness. There are some witnesses whose employment may require that they present the recordings, statements, or anything heard to assist a police officer. These include nurses, social workers, security officers, paramedics, and first responders. Whether you record an event, or are an eye witness to one, you could be subpoenaed and ordered to go to court. If you are a witness, you may be asked to give a statement, and/or appear in court.

In order to protect the integrity of the parties involved as well as the investigation, it is crucial to remain unbiased to video record police officers

To remain an unbiased witness, record the entire event. Don’t be biased and record one party or part of an event. We find some recording witnesses focus on the police officer only. Pointing the camera directly at the officer introduces bias and makes the video you are recording difficult to view the entire event. Record the entire interaction of all parties. Don’t be offended if the police officer tells you to back up or to move away. You could in danger or a threat.

An other article that may help: http://www.videoforensicexpert.com/5-tips-for-preparing-digital-video-evidence-for-court/

The guidelines provided in this video are based primarily on Michigan case law. For more information, visit the Michigan legislature website.

To learn more about our expert security consultant, Theo Chalogianis, please feel free to contact Chalogianis Consulting LLC at chalogianis@gmail.com.

 

Audio in Video Evidence

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Sound-analyse Audio in Video EvidenceWhen performing an audio and video authentication and analysis,a trained audio video forensic expert will utilize several methods in an attempt to detect an edit in a video recording that is used as evidence. Some of the time a critical ear can be just as important to a video forensic expert as the scientific community accepted software tools and an established chain of custody.

Though it is said that “A picture is worth a thousand words,” an audio file can be worth even more in a video forensic laboratory. A trained video forensic expert knows what to look for (or listen to) during a forensic video authentication and analysis investigation.

Many CCTV systems now have the capability to record audio, and this audio portion of the surveillance video recording can be crucial to the legitimacy of the digital video evidence. Audio is a great tool to investigate and detect an anomaly or edit when investigating a video recording. To do so there’s a process and protocol we follow at Primeau Forensics. 

Audio is comprised of “sound pressure waves,” which are waveform representative of the change in air pressure in a recording. One characteristic of sound pressure waves is that they are always smooth and continuous.

Let’s say, for example, you’re recording in an open, quiet room. While you’re recording, a rebellious teenager comes in the room and blows off his air-horn. Even though that loud sound completely changed the overall sound in the room, the wave that represents the pressure change will always be smooth and continuous.

The only time that a wave is not smooth and continuous is when an edit is made. Keeping this in mind will give you more of an idea of what you’re listening for.

When an edit is made to a recording, this disturbs the waveform. This makes it temporarily rigid and inconsistent. All sound pressure waves should be the opposite of that. So, when I am critically listening and hear a sound that is outside of that smooth, uninterrupted audio file, I know I have an anomaly that may be an edit.

How is that disturbance represented? Well, it will usually manifest itself in the form of a ‘pop’. In the context of video, it usually will only last a frame, but the sound will be there. If you hear anything that deviates from the already established waveform, you know that the evidence may have been edited.

Adobe and Izatope RX has software that allows a forensic experts to more accurately detect these edits. For example, a “spectrogram,” detects the “noise floor” in a recording. The spectrum recorded for a noise floor should be consistent in visual characteristics as long as nothing changes with the ambiance in a recording. When you see a deviation in that consistency, just as if you hear one in the dialogue, you can tell that the audio, and sub-sequentially the video, may have been altered.

There are many ways to detect edits visually when reviewing digital video evidence. Beginning with an established chain of custody and performing forensic video authentication and analysis will reveal integrity in your video recording or anomalies that reveal scientifically that the CCTV video recording may have been compromised and is unreliable.

Creating Video Work Products as an Audio/Video Forensic Expert

Monday, March 9th, 2015

The-Studio-Treated-1024x633 Creating Video Work Products as an Audio/Video Forensic ExpertVideo work products are a way to document forensic investigations, like evidence recovery, for reference at a later date. Processes and procedures are documented using a video camera during a forensic investigation for future use. I have referred back to my video work product many times when I have questions later during the evolution of the case.

As an Audio & Video Forensic Expert, I have examined hundreds of audio and video recordings to determine authenticity, as well as enhance characteristics of the digital evidence to clarify the events as they occurred. This video recording is referred to as ‘video work product’ and comes in handy.

There are a few different digital video recording platforms that I use when creating ‘video work product’. I often use VIEVU body worn cameras and HDSLR
photography based cameras. Each one of these types of systems serves a certain purpose in assisting with a forensic investigation, as well as the investigative process.

Over the last few years, I have seen firsthand the significance and overall efficiency that body worn cameras and their recorded video can bring to the public, law enforcement and legal proceedings. I personally use the VIEVU LE2 and LE3 body worn cameras. The LE3 records in 720p HD resolution and utilizes a 68 degree field of view. Other competitor cameras tend to use a 130 degree field of view, which captures a wider field of view but captures less detail. Detail is often more important when it comes to video evidence, which is one of the reasons I prefer to use VIEVU cameras.

These body worn cameras also contain digital audio recorders, which record MP3 format audio at a 44.1kHz sampling rate and a 64kbps bit rate. This high sampling rate captures the full range of human hearing, making any audio that is recorded on the camera more audible. In some cases, the client lawyer or law enforcement agencies that I work for require that no audio be recorded while video is being taken. The LE3 audio recorder can be switched off separately from the video, which gives me flexibility in such a situation. The LE3 records to either MP4 or AVI video format for easy playability across various platforms utilizing the H.264 codec. These formats also allow easy integration into my forensic programs, such as the Adobe Production Premium Suite. The 16 GB flash style storage system allows for either 12 hours of SD video or 6 hours of HD video and quick data transfer rates. The battery will last 5 hours during SD recording and 3 hours during HD recordings. The unit is also compatible with an external battery pack for extended battery life.

My main use for the LE3 body camera in my investigations is recording my forensic process in the field. This includes retrieving evidence from different systems so I can review the video later and include it in my report to support the authenticity of my work product and any evidence used in the case. Often times a forensic expert will be challenged by a client or opposing lawyer to verify the chain of custody of the materials produced during an investigation. Even minor details about how the investigation was conducted can have a large bearing on the authenticity of the evidence. Having a digital video recorder on my person during my forensic investigation allows me to capture both video of my process and my dialogue explaining the process. Including this work product to my forensic reports verifies the chain of custody and protects me as a forensic expert.

Another type of digital video camera that I use to produce video work product is an HDSLR photography camera. This type of camera equipment has become popular among the scientific community, as well as production companies, for its portability, versatility, quality and functionality. An HDSLR photography camera can use different size lenses to capture both images, as well as video, in different ways depending on the investigation requirements. HDSLR cameras record in 720p, 1080p, anamorphic and even 4k resolution. These cameras typically record at 30 minute intervals and have a battery life of approximately 2 hours of recording time, depending on the preferred quality and the available storage space. When connected to an external power source, these cameras can record for longer intervals of time. HDSLR cameras are great for recording a locked down alternative perspective to body cameras of an investigation or retrieval process. The flexibility of being able to produce individual still images as well as video throughout an investigation is also helpful with my forensic process.

In some investigations, a single video recorded perspective may not be sufficient to display the forensic process or document the events. Having another high quality camera with flexibility of perspectives and interchangeable lenses can capture aspects of my investigation that body worn cameras cannot. This lockdown feature of a point and shoot camera can also allow an investigator or client attorney to view the process as if they are sitting there watching in real time. Another use for HDSLR cameras as a forensic expert is recording accident reconstruction videos. An accident reconstruction video is a recreation of an event or series of events in the same environment that they occurred so they can be shown to a client investigator, client attorney and/or law enforcement. An accident reconstruction video is most effective to show the real life series of events as opposed to a 3D animation or a written statement of the events.

Video recorded by Closed Circuit television (CCTV) surveillance systems has been the dominant source of video evidence that I have investigated during my 30 years of being an audio video forensic expert.

Video evidence produced by CCTV systems can help solve crime, as well as reproduce accidents and disasters as they occurred for play back in many different settings. One significant use a video forensic expert has when recording video from a CCTV system is to create an exemplar. An exemplar recording is a recording made in the most similar way possible to the original piece of evidence using the same equipment, settings, environment and conditions of the original evidence. This recording is used as a comparison file to the original evidence to help determine the authenticity of the original evidence. Both the quality of the video and the metadata included in the files will be compared when conducting a forensic investigation.

It is a best practice of ours at Primeau Forensics to video record many forensic investigations, such as our exemplar creation process or evidence recovery, so if our client has any questions during the life of their case, this video work product can be referenced.

Virtual Chain of Custody for Video Forensics

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

chain-of-custody-1024x768 Virtual Chain of Custody for Video ForensicsTraditionally, a chain of custody is established between all parties – prosecution and defense, civil or criminal litigators – when handling forensic video evidence. Most of the time, the chain of custody process is easily established and agreed on when bringing in a forensic expert to authenticate or clarify and enhance the video evidence. This is a blog post about a new technology that is helping make this process easier and more convenient for all parties involved.

In an effort to provide good service while respecting the expectations of my clients, I have been using Cloud storage methods for sharing video evidence and work product.

Now that high speed Internet has hit critical mass it is easy and safe to share video forensic evidence over the Internet without violating the evidence integrity.

One network I have been using very successfully is to upload clarified video evidence to Vimeo using a password protected video post. Only the persons privy to the password can view the video. Of course, this practice is not acceptable in cases that involve children or pornography.

The link to the video post is then emailed to the client. The password is provided to the client in a separate email.

Once the forensic video process is complete the video evidence is then burned onto a CD or DVD Rom and returned to the client for the litigation proceeding.

Other virtual methods for safely transferring video evidence are Dropbox and YouSendIt.  As technology evolves, so does the forensic expert. Litigators are pleased with the convenience and forensic investigators are utilizing technological advancements to help speed up the forensic approval process.

Best Practices for Digital Video Evidence

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

digital-video-1024x768 Best Practices for Digital Video EvidenceOne of the day to day activities of a video forensic expert is to determine if a digital video recording is an exact representation of the facts as they occurred at the time of the recording. In order to do this, the video expert must know how the digital video recording was created. There is a series of best practices for digital video evidence that is followed in the forensic lab.

For example, was the video recorded on a closed circuit television system? Who was responsible for exporting the copy that has been provided for examination? This is a particularly important question because the integrity of that copy is proportionate to the experience of the person who removed it from that closed circuit television system.

If the video evidence is on a portable media device, such as a CD-ROM disc, a DVD-ROM disc or an external hard drive or thumb drive, then we know beyond a reasonable degree of certainty that that digital video was removed from the original security surveillance system or digital video recorder (DVR). It’s not a problem working from a copy as long as both sides in the litigation understand and agree to the authenticity of that copy. However, whenever there is a doubt as to the authenticity of that digital video on that external media, then the original digital video recording must be examined in its native environment, which is the original digital video recorder that is part of the closed circuit television system.

When an export copy video from a closed circuit television system is used in courts without debate, both sides in the litigation agreed that this export copy  is an actual representation of the facts as they occurred. Because of this, there was no dispute as to whether or not it was an original because it didn’t matter. The digital format, when cloning, is technically all considered “originals” because of the digital formatting. In other words, it’s all “Xs and Os” and meta data that has been transferred from a digital video recorder or computer hard drive. Just like when making copies of a compact disc for a friend, the copy, if done properly, sounds just as good as the original. But I digress. When there’s a dispute over the contents of an exported digital video recording and the original has to be sought to approve and display the facts as they occurred, the video forensic expert’s job is now to go back to the source that created the digital video recording and obtain a copy of it through supervised procedures of exporting. That way the forensic expert and both parties in the litigation have no dispute as to whether or not that digital video recording is authentic and true.

Oftentimes the original video recording is no longer available because of the time that it takes for cases to rotate in court. As a forensic video expert I often receive evidence copies for authentication, examination, clarification and restoration up to a year—and even two years—after they were recorded. When there’s doubt to the integrity of this video evidence and the original is no longer available because of the “first in, first out” operation of closed circuit television systems, then it’s the forensic video expert’s job to find clues within that digital video recording to help process the litigation.

When working in a Windows-based PC forensic laboratory, I have discovered that some of the closed circuit television exports do not play properly, if at all, on the Windows 7 operating system. This is why we have older versions of Windows operating systems in our laboratory. It’s a best practice of a forensic expert to be prepared for any situation in order to conduct a proper video forensic investigation.

Occasionally the forensic video expert must use screen capture technology in order to retain a portion of the closed circuit television recording for clarification purposes. Recording a portion of the closed circuit television video using screen capture technology allows me to create a file format that is suitable for forensic investigation. Closed circuit television systems record video using a proprietary format that is native to the original operating system of the digital video recorder. This is why the footage is considered secure, and authentic—because it was recorded in an “armored car” environment. This security often interferes with a video forensic investigation because, depending on the source of the copy that has been given to the forensic examiner, the proper CODECS may not be available to the forensic expert in order to view that surveillance footage. Therefore, one of the first activities that a forensic expert does in that situation is to try to find the CODECS proprietary to that surveillance system in order to get one of the Windows operating systems to play that video footage for examination. Once the video forensic expert plays and views the original footage using the proper CODEC, a screen capture software program is used to create a new file of that surveillance video. Once that new video footage has been created, the digital video is then imported into a forensic video software program for investigation, authentication, clarification, restoration or any other activity necessary to help process the litigation. Of course, the forensic video expert records their process, which is accepted in the scientific community and aids the forensic video expert in compiling a report at the conclusion of their investigation.

All of these activities are best practices of a forensic video expert. With technology changing faster than ever, it is the forensic video expert’s job to be able to know where to go to find answers to difficult situations caused by lack of understanding of the originator of the video evidence. Sometimes security personnel who export the original video evidence from the closed circuit television system are not aware of the fact that in order to view that digital footage, the player or the software must be embedded on the media where the file is being transferred to. Instead, security personnel sometimes just export one of the digital video files from the closed circuit television system without realizing a specific CODEC is necessary for future viewing of that footage.

As a scientific community we are always learning additional best practices for examining digital media evidence. I welcome any feedback or communication from anyone who reads this post and has a comment about any of their best practices experiences or anything that has been written in this blog post.

3 Tips for Preparing Video Evidence for Court

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

courtroom-1024x682 3 Tips for Preparing Video Evidence for CourtOver the last 28 years I have worked on many video forensic cases as a video forensic expert. This blog post is about the top three things I have learned and want to share with you about preparing your video evidence for use in court.
Number one: document and maintain a chain of custody on the video evidence.  Too often there is no chain of custody maintained on video evidence. The lack of a chain of custody makes it hard for all parties in any litigation to understand the purpose and authenticity of the video evidence.

Number two: always use the original digital video file for any litigation. If you are not sure if it’s the original or if you believe it has been altered, then it is not considered the original and you must go back to the source that recorded the footage in order to confirm.  Bottom line: if both parties in the litigation agree on the video evidence and consider it original, you are okay.  Only when there is a disagreement should you go back to the recording source and compare that recording to the video evidence.

Number three: make sure your video plays on the equipment that is used in the court. Many attorneys will enter a court room with a piece of video evidence and not realize that the court is not equipped to play the type of digital video file that the evidence has been presented in. It never hurts to rehearse your presentation of the video evidence before it is finally presented in court. Will the jury be able to hear the audio?  Do you need a PA speaker and amplifier to make the audio louder for everyone in court to hear?

There are many other factors to consider when using your video evidence in litigation, but these are the top three in my opinion.  Ask a video forensic expert for help because your evidence can be removed from your case if it is not prepared and presented properly or if there is doubt on the authenticity.

photo credit: St Georges Hall Court Room via photopin (license)

Original Digital Media Evidence is Mandatory

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

913643_25477244 Original Digital Media Evidence is MandatoryDigital audio and video is recorded and stored in electronic equipment. If the audio or video is needed in court, the original device that created the recording must be identified and kept in a chain of custody. The only exception is when both parties involved in the litigation agree that a copy is sufficient. If there is doubt in the authenticity, the audio expert must refer to the original to support the authentication of the audio evidence.

The reason is that the audio or video copy has been removed from its original environment and is vulnerable to alteration. In addition, if a computer created the original recording, additional information can be examined by the audio expert such as file creation, last accessed and other computer forensic information that can support the audio evidence authenticity.

If the original audio recording was created in a digital pocket recorder (which many law enforcement officials use) then that original pocket recorder must maintain a chain of custody and become the original evidence. Any external copy created by a number of methods and played outside of the digital pocket recorder is a copy. Unless an audio expert can authenticate the copy (which can be done once the original has been examined) it cannot be used in a court proceeding. If the audio copy has been authenticated by an expert, than it will be easier to play and amplify in the court for a judge and jury.

I have testified in criminal cases for the defense when the client swore under oath that the audio recording had been altered and did not represent the facts as they occurred. Now it’s their word against the other side and when the court has to decide, the prosecution most always, will prevail.

If you have had an experience with Audio/Video evidence and would like to share your story, please comment on this post and your story will be heard.

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Video Forensic Expert Edward J Primeau Curriculum Vitae

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