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Archive for the ‘Digital Video Evidence’ Category

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.

 

How to Video Record a Police Officer PT 2

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

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Here at Primeau Forensics, we come across many videos that were recorded of police officers using a smart phone. Statistics show that 77% of Americans use a smartphone. Couple that with the vast amount of apps on the market that make recording and sharing videos one of the easiest parts of a person’s day, it’s no surprise that an average of 60 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

“What does that have to do with video recording police officers and video forensics?” Because the ease of recording videos has become so prevalent in our society, more and more citizens are capturing both criminal activity and law enforcement interactions with their smartphones.

see How to Video Record a Police Officer PT 2

These videos become an integral part of the investigation. If they are poor quality, only so much can be done to forensically enhance them. Our goal is to give you the necessary solutions to common problems that we encounter to assist you in acquiring the best recording possible.

 

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Problem #1: Unstable footage
Solution: Try to stay calm and focus on keeping the camera steady. Don’t zoom in too much on the subject to where your camera is unable to properly auto focus. Be sure to keep a safe distance. Should the video need additional zooming, it can be forensically enhanced.

Problem #2: Landscape vs Portrait
Solution: Always film in landscape mode. Filming in landscape offers a wider view of the situation. This provides investigators with valuable information, like point of entry, outside factors, and other surroundings. Filming in landscape mode also provides a clearer image for forensic experts.

 

Problem #3: The citizen who is filming does not “blend in” and in turn escalates the situation.mp How to Video Record a Police Officer PT 2

Solution: If you feel like you are too close to the situation, you probably are. Safety of you and everyone else is most important. So, when in doubt, back up. Also, don’t feel the need to use any equipment more than your smartphone. As technology advances, smartphone cameras are advancing with it. Most smartphones use a 1080p resolution, which is sufficient for forensic enhancement.

 

Problem #4: The video is edited or uploaded to social media before it is handed off to the proper authorities.
Solution: Don’t alter the video in anyway. Whether it is: shortening the video, using apps or software to enhance the video or the audio, or adding effects. All of these adjustments effect the Chain of Custody (he order in which a piece of criminal evidence should be handled by persons investigating a case, specif. the unbroken trail of accountability that ensures the physical security of samples, data, and records in a criminal investigation.) as well as the forensic experts ability to identify and/or authenticate the video. We have all seen viral videos on social media or news outlets of criminal activity or law enforcement interactions. While these are important to start what could be difficult conversations in our society, it is imperative that the investigation betactical-2 How to Video Record a Police Officer PT 2 complete before a video is made public. Posting the video online could give suspects important details that could hinder the investigation and put lives at risk. It is important to remember that what you film could affect people’s lives. Think how you would want someone to handle the footage if it was you or a loved one in the video.

 

Problem #5: The video is not unbiased and only focuses on one subject and not the entire situation.
Solution: While you may be emotionally invested in the situation, it is crucial that the video evidence be unbiased. In order for the investigation to be as accurate as possible, investigators need to see the event in its entirety. It is a good idea to begin filming as soon as you see a problem arising and continue filming until the interaction is finalized. Another good idea is to use multiple cameras when available. This provides multiple viewpoints as well as the ability to have multiple versions of the recording to have the best possible outcome.

 

If you are filming an interaction with law enforcement, be mindful and respectful of the officer’s tactical operating area. If you have concerns regarding an officer’s actions, take the appropriate measures to speak directly with their supervisor. If the officer asks you to back up, he/she is doing so for your safety. It is always best to work with the officer and not against them, and to Quote How to Video Record a Police Officer PT 2keep in mind that the officer may be in a heightened state of emotion from a previous incident. As Barrack Obama, once said, “Understand, our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law.”

 

 

 

 

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.

Increase in Body Worn Cameras

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

le2-3 Increase in Body Worn CamerasIn the last few years, Primeau Forensics has seen an increase in cases that involve surveillance video including body camera video recordings. This digital video evidence is very important in order of investigators and the Trier of Fact to understand the events as they occurred.

Much of this activity began back in 2013 and helped locate and identify the Boston Marathon Bombers. FBI investigators had to cull through dozens if not hundreds of hours of CCTV video surveillance recordings in order to find and identify the terrorists that were eventually responsible for these acts of violence.

Lately, video as evidence is expanding to include body worn cameras that have been implemented into many police agencies across the United States. President Obama authorized funding for police agencies to purchase this equipment. Currently, there are numerous police agencies around the country that are testing different makes of body cameras and learning how to properly integrate them into their procedures. Many of these agencies have been transparent with their testing and have begun to approve further funding to outfit more officers with cameras.

The Grand Rapids, Michigan Police Department was recently testing two different kinds of body-worn cameras among eight different police officers, who presented their feedback on the camera systems online. The city has now approved the funding for two hundred officers to be outfitted with cameras. The Seattle, Washington Police Department has also been very open about their body camera testing, even releasing some of the footage online for the public to see. To maintain privacy, they blurred the video and removed the audio so no individuals could be identified. A large amount of the public has been pushing for police worn body cameras ever since the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri last August.

The benefit of body worn cameras is that they protect everyone, police officers as well as citizens. Many police agencies are in full support of the cameras because they reduce the questioning of what happened during an altercation. If a disagreement is established against an officer, internal affairs will be able to check the body camera video and see the events as they occurred. Police agencies believe this will be very helpful with training officers and improving the relationship between the public and police.

The biggest issue arising from the increase of body worn cameras is the huge amount of data being created. Not only does this require a very large amount of storage space, but it must be stored securely so that the video evidence cannot be tampered with. Thankfully, many of the companies providing these body worn cameras also include proprietary software that ensures the evidence cannot be modified between the camera and the system. Access to the video will be limited to authorized personnel only to maintain the authenticity and safety of the video evidence.

As a Video Forensic Expert, I see many benefits to this increase in body worn cameras. I have worked on numerous cases in which evidence from a body worn camera greatly helped the investigation and proceeding trial. Police dash cameras have often been used as video evidence for investigations but they often do not show the entire altercation because of their stationary view. Police body worn cameras add a second perspective to be used along with the dash cam which can be invaluable to an investigation. Having the two angles of the event in question allows anyone involved in the case to get a better picture of what happened.

Of course all video recordings submitted as evidence in a civil or criminal litigation must have an established chain of custody that supports the events and provides integrity for the digital video evidence. We encourage you to review our series on How to Properly Record a Police Officer when adding Good Samaritan video recordings to an investigation.

 

Video Evidence – South Carolina Officer Shooting Unarmed Black Man

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

891495_84762078-300x202 Video Evidence – South Carolina Officer Shooting Unarmed Black ManA South Carolina police officer was arrested yesterday for the murder of an unarmed black man. This is all because of a video that surfaced of the North Charleston officer, Michael Slager, firing eight times at the unarmed man as the man fled in an open field.

According to police reports, the victim in question, 50-year-old Walter L. Scott, continued to flee after being hit by the officer’s stun gun. Police report that Mr. Scott had taken Officer Slager’s stun gun, which lead to a reasonable pursuit.

However, the video seems to show a different story. The stun gun is dropped, and after Mr. Scott is gunned down and the officer is seen dropping something next to the unarmed man. It is not clear as to what was dropped; however, some fear that this was planted on the man after his shooting, as police report that the officer’s taser was taken.

Whatever the case, the innocent bystander who recorded Good Samaritan video aided in this investigation. Not only did he take the responsibility to record the events, but he also utilized landscape mode on his cell phone to record the altercation. This provided additional digital video evidence for this investigation.

As you see in the first few seconds of the video, his shot in “portrait” orientation would not have accurately captured the events as they occurred. Mr. Scott would have run off screen, and we never would have seen this happen. However, because he shot the video in landscape mode, we’re able to see the shooting clearly.

Situations like this help reinforce the importance of the little devices in our pockets. Smartphone video can make or break a case like this, and we need to understand why it’s so crucial to utilize the tools we have when an unlawful event occurs. If it weren’t for this Good Samaritan, this story may have gone unseen and unnoticed. It really shows how important video can be.

You can watch the video below via the NY Times:

 

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.

Body Worn Cameras; More Safe than Dash Cam for Police

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

837248_83687380-300x200 Body Worn Cameras; More Safe than Dash Cam for PoliceAfter the controversial grand jury announcement in the case of Michael Brown, President Obama has proposed the idea of issuing police departments across the nation with body worn cameras for law enforcement. Between Michael Brown, and the controversy behind the Eric Garner case, citizens are asking: Will body-worn cameras help police as well as the public? In this video forensic expert’s opinion, the answer to that question is a resounding YES!

Video is the least challenged of all digital media forensic evidence. It provides a clear indication of the events as they occurred by allowing the judge and jury to observe the event with their own eyes. Nothing is as revealing as video to clearly show the court exactly what happened.

Had Darren Wilson, the officer involved in the Michael Brown shooting, worn a body worn camera, the case might have had a different outcome. The ability for the jury to see something first person can be invaluable to their decision.

Here’s an example: In the video embedded below, courtesy of ABC News, we see two pieces of evidence: footage of a confrontation taken from the dash-cam, along with evidence taken from the body worn camera. As the first half of the video shows, the police officer in question tackles the suspect for seemingly no reason. The body-cam, however, tells a completely different story.


More ABC US news | ABC World News

What the white Kia in the driveway blocks is the event that takes place at 1:53 of the video, whereas the suspect openly tries to assault the police officer in question. In this instance, had a body worn camera not been issued, the jury may have interpreted this in a completely different way.

Last year, Primeau Forensics had the opportunity to test and review one of these body worn cameras, the VieVu LE2. These cameras would be phenomenal for police forces all over the U.S. It’s 72-degree wide angle lens allows for a wider first person perspective, so that even a suspect standing at a distance from the officer is still being recorded. The near-professional quality of the audio and video ensure a clear understanding of the situation, and the digital signature security ensures that the video footage cannot be tampered with while on the device.

Body worn cameras could completely revolutionize the court system and how it interprets evidence. Video like this can be instrumental to the outcome of a case, as it provides the most realistic representation of what exactly transpired in a given confrontation. As shown above, not even a dash-cam can always show us everything, but having a first person perspective of a given confrontation is pivotal to the jury’s final decision.

For more info on body-worn cameras, check out CEO Ed Primeau’s interview with VIEVU CEO Steve Ward here!

Police Misconduct and Mobile Video – DeShawn Currie

Friday, October 10th, 2014

823924_65536328-300x225 Police Misconduct and Mobile Video - DeShawn CurrieLast night, ABC News ran a story about a young foster child who was pepper-sprayed in his own home. The boy, DeShawn Currie, was mistaken for a burglar reported by neighbors, and was pepper-sprayed at the front door of his home in North Carolina.

Stories like this really emphasize how powerful the consumer video revolution really is. Police misconduct of this kind may have gone completely unnoticed without the advancement of video that has taken place over the past decade. Video is the most powerful evidence in situations like these, and we need to remain aware of the power that video as evidence has in the world today. Without the advancement of the smartphone camera, dash-cams, body worn cameras such as the GoPro, along with advancements in CCTV technology, this absurd behavior from police may have gone completely undocumented. Now that we have all of this technology at our fingertips, we have a much higher chance of exposing misconduct of this degree.

To read more about the consumer video revolution and it’s effects on the courtroom, click here.

Watch the full story from ABC News below.


More ABC news videos | ABC Entertainment News

The Evolution of Mobile Video and What It Could Mean for Video Forensics

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

tU3ptNgGSP6U2fE67Gvy_SYDNEY-162-300x200 The Evolution of Mobile Video and What It Could Mean for Video ForensicsOver the past few years, we’ve seen a significant acceleration in the development and manufacture of consumer-grade, mobile video devices. From smartphones to GoPros, video recording has become substantially less expensive and far more accessible to consumers, and this may change the game regarding digital evidence.

This consumer video revolution now allows us to capture video of events as they occur. This phenomenon has created powerful repercussions in the courtroom. Thanks to the easy availability of video devices and trends in social media, we now have presented at trial video evidence of events that, until recently, have rarely been made known.

For example, take this video of a woman from Mississippi. As she begins to merge onto the highway, a truck hits her car, causing the car to catch fire. She seems trapped in the car (either physically, or due to shock), and with her children in the back and the flames coming ever closer to the gas tank, she needs to act quickly.

Suddenly, from behind the scene of the accident, another truck driver leaves his rig and tries to save the family by pulling them out of the burning car. Minutes after they are successfully rescued, the car explodes. Had the truck driver been a few minutes later, it is likely that the entire family would have been killed.

This is a heroic, inspiring story. An inspiring story that would have gone completely unnoticed if weren’t for the rescuer’s dash cam recording the entire incident. A heroic act so great that it has rarely been seen outside of movies and television, it became a huge story, and something that would have been unrecognized by the public without the technology of this generation.

However, the documentation of heroic stories like this is only the beginning of the positive effects from the spread of video devices to every pocket, purse, and vehicle. This public video revolution can also make or break a court case, providing the crucial evidence that makes true justice possible.

For this, let’s use the currently infamous video, “Officer Go-F***-Yourself.” The officer in Ferguson appeared at a peaceful protest late one night in August. He approached a group of young adult protesters with an assault weapon drawn, pointed it at them, and he told them that if they did not return to their homes, he would “f***ing kill” them.

In the world of law enforcement, this kind of behavior on the part of an officer is absolutely improper and illegal. The protest was peaceful; the young adults weren’t causing any harm or exhibiting disorderly behavior. Hell, even if they were, threatening protesters in such a crude manor is clearly unacceptable in a free society.

Had this happened 10 years ago, it might have gone completely unnoticed. The officer in question may have gotten away with blatantly making death threats to civilians, and the only evidence from the protesters would’ve turned into a game of “he said, she said.” However, because one of the protesters was smart enough to take out their cell phone and document the entire confrontation, justice was done and the officer was suspended from the force. The police in Ferguson were able to see the events exactly as they transpired, so it was indisputable that he was guilty. This, in itself, is revolutionary, and is an indication of how much power video evidence can have in the courtroom.

The fact stands that a clear representation, such as video, is the most indisputable evidence there is, and allowing the jury, officials and lawyers to witness the event with their own eyes and ears is the most effective way to present evidence. Other forms of evidence can be easily disputed, but allowing the court to see, hear, and experience the event for themselves is the most effective method of presenting evidence, even more reliable than an eyewitness account.

Think about it this way. Consider the most powerful documentaries you’ve ever seen. What do they all have in common? Generally, they all rely on the reality of the situation by allowing viewers to experience it for themselves. You can throw out as many facts and statistics as you want, but seeing, hearing, and experiencing actual issues, people, circumstances, and actions is what will stick with people most. The feeling viewers derive from seeing the faces and hearing the people speak is incomparable to any statistic in the world. This is why Charlie LeDuff’s piece on Ferguson is one of the most powerful, yet. It doesn’t focus on the narrative; it doesn’t focus on stats; it focuses on the people. It focuses on those who are so passionate about this cause that they would fight, risk arrest, or even die for it.

The consumer video device revolution is so important to the justice system, and the best way to reap its benefits is to remain aware of its power. If you experience anything unlawful, always remember that the little rectangle sitting in your pocket could make or break the fate of those guilty. These devices allow us to capture indisputable evidence about what truly took place, and this is a privilege we can’t ignore. If these developments continue, they could completely change the face of digital forensic evidence forever.

Video Evidence Recovery for Video Enhancement

Monday, April 14th, 2014

1153871_61229211-1-1024x951 Video Evidence Recovery for Video EnhancementThe importance of proper video evidence recovery is very clear to those of us involved in forensic video enhancement. During the process of video evidence recovery, the trained video forensic expert will make sure the highest quality video recording will be properly saved for use in court.

As an audio/video forensic expert I have witnessed a huge growth in digital video recordings admitted into evidence in court over the last several years. Much of the work I do on these recordings is video enhancement which allows the Trier of Fact a better opportunity to view the events as they occurred. Sometimes this digital video evidence was recorded in video surveillance systems, other times it is from smart-phones.  Video surveillance recordings that I enhance are removed from both mobile surveillance systems and stationary surveillance systems.

Stationary surveillance systems record digital video at stationary locations like convenience stores, banks and other businesses or institutions. Mobile surveillance systems are being used more and more in busses, trains and other types of public transportation.

Many people involved in litigation who retain audio and video forensic experts like me do not realize how important professional evidence retrieval is.

There are three main factors I would like to mention regarding the reason for professional evidence recovery. First, when I retrieve evidence personally, I record a video of the process using a VIEVU body worn camera, which establishes an indisputable chain of custody. Second, I take special precautions during the retrieval process to make sure I leave with at least one version of the recording and leave with the evidence for future forensic enhancement and authentication.

I retrieve the recording so as to minimize any degradation of quality. When a multi-million dollar lawsuit may turn on the analysis of a surveillance video, it is imprudent to entrust evidence retrieval to an untrained security guard or police officer.

Third, I research the operator’s manual and connect with tech support from the surveillance company before I travel to the location of the surveillance equipment and make the evidence recovery. While I am on site I can also examine the administrative log and determine additional forensic information for the chain of custody.

I want to mention an excellent manual for retrieval of electronic evidence developed jointly by the federal government’s interagency Technical Support Working Group, the FBI Forensic Audio, Video, and Image Analysis Unit, and law enforcement agencies from around the world. Entitled Best Practices for the Retrieval of Video Evidence from Digital CCTV Systems, it contains an authoritative (if somewhat dated) overview of the topic, and covers many of the protocols we have adopted at Primeau Forensics.

Before digital audio and video recorders, retrieving a tape-based analogue recording was fairly straightforward. Recordings were made to tape cassettes, which were stored in climate-controlled conditions. Evidence retrieval was as simple as picking up the original cassette recording. Digital video recorders (DVRs), however, do not record to easily portable cassettes. Rather, they record to the kind of hard disk drives found in computers. These internal hard drives are not portable, making evidence retrieval more difficult. Whether I take the DVR or its internal drive with me or make a lossless copy of its contents, I always follow antistatic procedures and carry all media in specially shielded cases.

All surveillance and standard digital video is recorded using a specific compression/decompression scheme or codec. The compressed file is stored within a wrapper, a file structure, which determines its format. It is not uncommon for surveillance DVRs to use proprietary formats, allowing playback only through the original recording DVR. Some DVRs can recompress the original proprietary format file, transcoding it into a non-proprietary format for easy playback. However, these more accessible files often contain lower quality video and audio. When I retrieve these digital video files, I study the DVR’s operating manual to find the best way to make a high quality copy that retains all data and metadata. By minimizing or eliminating the degradation that can accompany translating the file from one format to another, I ensure that my lab analysis is based on the best video recording available.

Video Forensic Expert Edward J Primeau Curriculum Vitae

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