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How To Record A Police Officer Safety & Legally PT 1

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

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

The following information is a culmination of law enforcement feedback, concerned citizens, and legal counsel experience. The purpose of this post is to encourage concerned citizens to consider the proper methods when video recording police officers safely and legally. Before we begin, we want to talk about the two main objectives, safety and legality. Your safety, your family’s safety, and anyone you are with on location is top priority.

What are the legal boundaries for video recording a police officer? In general, the concerned citizen would not be legally obligated to hand over their camera or cell phone. However, there are ways to assist the police department and the community so unnecessary tension is not created between the law enforcement on scene and the concerned citizens.

 

Can you legally record a police officer?

 

The specific details expressed in this post are based primarily on Michigan law.

In a public place where there is no expectation of privacy, a concerned citizen is allowed to record video or take pictures. 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 his or her focus. The grey area then becomes “does the police officer consider that you are interfering with the investigation at that time” in their opinion. At this point, you might want to 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 and may still be in a heightened sense of emotion or coming down from a critical incident previous to the one you are currently video recording.

Even if you didn’t record, if you were a witness, write down your name and number or give a business card to the police officer and mention you saw what happened and to contact you if they feel 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. No matter what, the will be the one that wants that information.

You have a right to remain anonymous as a concerned citizen you can request that from the police department, or you may go through a third party, such as Primeau Forensics, and ask for assistance. Certain people are obligated to present the recordings, statements, or anything heard as possible evidence of a case. Some of these people are: nurses, social workers, security, 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 legally obligated 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.

 

If it is one person recording, record the whole event. Don’t be biased recording one party or the other. Pointing the camera directly at the officer introduces bias and makes it difficult to determine who is at fault. Record the entire interaction of both parties. Don’t be offended if the police officer asks or tells you to back up or to get away. It will almost always be for your safety and to eliminate the officers consideration that you could be an additional threat.

 

Effectiveness of the recoding as video evidence.

 

We also want to address the effectiveness of your video recording and how it pertains to the investigation down the road. The primary purpose for reviewing video evidence in the court is to determine how the events occurred naturally. Second, the evidence illustrates the overall picture as accurately as possible. In too many situations, a concerned citizen will record an interaction without knowing many of the facts of the incident, or who was involved. This distorts the public perspective and may cause harm to the investigation.

 

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

Here at Primeau Forensics, we come across many videos that were recorded 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 forensics?” you may ask. 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.

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.

 

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.

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 be 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 keep 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.

Laquan McDonald Police Video With Audio is Fake

Friday, December 4th, 2015

On November 24, video of the Laquan McDonald shooting was released by the Chicago police department – video that did not have audio. Subsequently, a video of the same incident, allegedly with audio, was posted on YouTube. I was asked to take a look at the video and offer my professional opinion as to the authenticity of the audio portion.

During my investigation of the YouTube video titled “Is this the audio? Chicago Police dashcam video of Laquan McDonald shooting”, I discovered several anomalies and inconsistencies using Time Domain Analysis, Frequency Domain Analysis, and Critical Listening Skills. I have outlined these anomalies and inconsistencies.

Frequency Analysis:

Frequency_Analysis_Laquan

  • In the image above, the Spectrogram shows the cutoff frequency of the gunshots well above the cutoff frequency of the noise floor, or background noise (radio chatter & siren). A closer look at the difference in frequency content between the gunshots and background noise is displayed in the image below:

Frequency_Analysis_Laquan_2

  • The cutoff frequency of the audio content from the YouTube video titled “Is this the audio? Chicago Police dashcam video of Laquan McDonald shooting” is around 16 kHz. This is displayed in the image below:

Frequency_Analysis_Laquan_3

Based on my experience, audio recorded evidence produced from law enforcement vehicles contain a cutoff frequency of 4kHz. I have examined the frequency analysis of the audio recorded in the original video evidence with lack of radio communication & officer dialogue. The cutoff frequency analysis of the original video evidence is displayed below:

Frequency_Analysis_Laquan_4

Based on my testing and analysis, I can confidently say that the audio portion of this video has been manufactured and added to the video. For what purpose? Only the ‘creator’ of the video can answer that.

Frequency_Analysis_Laquan_5

  • The original video released by Chicago Police contains recorded audio content of crosstalk, and alternator or engine noise (see above image). The noises that are audible within the original video recording are low in amplitude but can be heard with a significant increase in volume. Because this digital recorder recorded an audio track, it is my opinion that it was functional and had the ability to record sound. Because of the lack of officer dialogue, radio chatter, we believe the lack of these sounds was due to the following reasons:
  1. The on-person lavalier microphones within the vehicle were muted
  2. The on-person lavalier microphones within the vehicle were disconnected
  3. The on-person lavalier microphones within the vehicle were deactivated
  • The gunshots, and radio chatter heard throughout the YouTube video titled “Is this the audio? Chicago Police dashcam video of Laquan McDonald shooting” are duplicated, equalized and are not genuine or authentic. Previously in this blog I discussed the inconsistency between the cutoff frequency of the gunshots and cutoff frequency of the background noise within the audio content. In addition, the audible fingerprint of the gunshots within the Spectrogram has a distinct shape, size, and intensity that are consistent with duplication or repetition. The frequency decay of the gunshot, timbre or sound of the gunshot, as well as duration of the sound are almost identical. The gunshots are displayed in the image below:

Frequency_Analysis_Laquan_6

The radio chatter sample at timecode 0:04.387 (MM:SS:MS) is an exact duplicate of the radio chatter sample 0:03.000 (MM:SS:MS). The conversation being spoken is identical. The difference between the two is that the duplicate has been processed using equalization to deceive the listener into believing it is additional radio conversation.

This video claiming to have genuine audio is indeed a fake.

Increase in Body Worn Cameras

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

vievuIn 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

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

Video Forensic LabVideo work product is 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.

5 Tips for Preparing Digital Video Evidence for Court

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

evidence - courtOver the last 30 + years, I have worked on video forensic cases around the world as a video forensic expert. This blog post is about the top five things I have learned and want to share with you about preparing your video evidence for use in court regardless of where you are located.

Tip One: Chain of Custody

Perhaps the most important tip. Document and maintain a chain of custody on your video evidence.  When there is no chain of custody maintained on video evidence it is hard for all parties in any litigation to understand the purpose of the video evidence as well as the genuineness and authenticity. Lack of a proper chain of custody reduces the credibility of your video evidence.

I have a case in house that includes a smart phone video recording. We kept the video recording on the smart phone. Why not, its crucial to our investigation. There is plenty of storage space available on the phone. Of course, I established and documented the chain of custody when I downloaded the phone in my lab. I have to wonder, as a scientist, when I examine video recordings that do not have an established chain of custody and nobody can tell me how the recording was created. If its important, why was the video not protected when it was created? If it is important and includes a crime being committed and will be used in court, establishing a chain of custody is a crucial and straight forward step in the forensic authentication and analysis process.

Tip Two: When possible, use the original video recording not a copy

As a rule of thumb, always present the original digital video recording, not a copy. If you are not sure you have the original or if you believe the copy you have has been altered, seek the help and guidance of a video forensic expert. A video forensic expert can authenticate the digital video recording and present a report of their scientific findings.  

There are times when a person believes they have exported a full quality video recording from the system that created it (CCTV system, smart phone, police dash cam). However, after some research, the forensic expert believes there is a better method of exporting a video recording for the forensic enhancement process. The expert is retained and travels to the location where the video recording was created only to find that the video recording was deleted from the recording devise for whatever reason. The lower quality now becomes the ‘original’ and provides less than optimal results.

Tip Number Three: Prepare your video recording for courtroom use

Make sure your video is compatible for easy playback in court. Many of our clients at Primeau Forensics will give us a digital video recording to authenticate that was created on a closed circuit television surveillance system. Attorneys will enter a court room with a video requiring a proprietary player that will not open quickly keeping the judge and jury waiting for their video evidence to be presented. As a rule of thumb, always prepare playing your video evidence before you enter the court room. 

When I enhance a video recording for courtroom use, I always export the video recording from my forensic software using a file extension that is easier to open than some of the clunky proprietary players that CCTV systems rely on for recording playback.

When I testify, I prep with my client attorney on the phone as well as in person before ever going under oath. Part of this prep time is to double and triple check all our video exhibits, some of which are demonstrative.

Number four: Playback equipment for sight as well as sound

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? It is common when I testify that I bring in a suitcase or two of equipment to make sure all video is played back properly and easily heard by all persons in the court room. 

Many courts that I have testified in have video playback equipment. Double check with the court before hand to determine what playback technology that have available. Bring in any equipment necessary so the Trier of Fact can easily see and hear your video recording. If you have to rent equipment, make sure it arrives well in advance of the trial.

I once had a case where I had to install an app on my computer in order for video playback to work on the court system. The app completely messed up my computer. Because this was during prep time, I was able to undo the app and make other arrangements to play the video evidence. In the end, it is up to the litigator presenting the video recording to make sure it can be properly seen and heard.

Number five: Bring enough copies for everyone

Do you have copies of your video for everyone involved in the litigation? Remember, you have to put an evidence/exhibit sticker on your digital video evidence. DVD exhibits have space to apply stickers on the label side of the DVD (do not put a sticker on the laser or playing side of the DVD disc). Thumb drives are harder if not impossible to put evidence stickers on. Thumb drives are being used more and more in court as the digital file size is increasing with video evidence. Especially with high definition video recordings. When I present a thumb drive (jump drive, USB storage devise) I place the thumb drive in a small plastic evidence bag that looks like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evidence and exhibit stickers and information can be placed on the bag itself.

These are the top five tips when presenting digital evidence for court. If you have doubt or any questions about video evidence that will be used in your litigation, feel free to give us a call. 

Mobile Surveillance Video Evidence Recovery – Hard Drive Cloning

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

hard drive cloningMobile Video Evidence Recovery: Simple as Cloning the DVR’s Hard Drive?

With the rapid proliferation of surveillance cameras in public and private spaces, law enforcement agencies are increasingly making use of these recordings as evidentiary video at trial. Moreover, mobile digital video recorders and other portable video recording technologies are making it much more practical to capture surveillance/crime scene video that may latter be used as evidence in court. Playback of these video recordings is straightforward, providing the video is played back using the original equipment on which it was recorded.

This caveat, unbeknownst to many attorneys and police officers,stems from a simple fact.Most fixed and mobile DVR-based surveillance systems employ proprietary computer operating systems and record digital video to proprietary formats. Under these circumstances, causing minimal degradation of picture quality during the process of recovering and trans coding video files is a complex challenge for both law enforcement agencies and video forensic experts. There are a wide variety of surveillance system manufacturers and a larger number of different models of DVRs, which makes on-site retrieval of video recordings a difficult process, often necessitating access to the technical manual of the DVR on which the recording is stored.

The investigators at Primeau Forensics have worked on countless evidence recovery assignments where simple cloning of the DVR’s hard drive would have been the worst retrieval strategy of all. First, the cloned drive may not mount on our computers, which run Windows and Apple operating systems. Second, proprietary files are often invisible files outside their native OS. They cannot be detected or read by any operating system but the embedded OS running on the dedicated device. Third, video files may be encoded using a non-standard codec and/or formatted within a non-standard wrapper.

For example, NVR format video files, frequently used in surveillance systems, come in a multitude of types, each with its own structural and descriptive metadata. Associated files present, such as the control files and system files that enable playback on the original DVR, will often impede playback on general-purpose computers. File Investigator Engine and File Expander Engine from Dark Data Discovery allow forensic investigators to identify and open over 4,300 different types of files, yet simply cloning the DVR’s hard drive remains a strategy fraught with complications.

Successful retrieval of DVR recordings always requires preparation and research beforehand. We always browse the Internet, contact the manufacturer, and read the manuals over and over to determine the best way to preserve this fragile digital evidence in its most pristine quality. As trial verdicts may turn on the outcome of our analysis of evidentiary video, we want to personally recover the video to establish a clear chain of custody, prevent accidental loss of files, and preserve the video quality through recovery and trans coding to an open format.

We recommend the following 4-step process for retrieval of video from DVRs:

1)      As previously mentioned, research the design, inputs/outputs and operation of the DVR you are examining. Obtain the special software, codecs, and technical manuals necessary to examine the unit properly.

2)      Photograph the digital video recorder before you begin the inspection. Take note of any markings or signs of tampering.

3)      Connect the DVR or mobile digital video recorder to the power source that will power the unit best. Sometimes, mobile digital video recorders require an AC/DC cable system to power the unit in an office environment. The vehicle or locale in which it was originally installed may have had custom power connections, not available if the unit is pulled for examination.

4)      Connect the data transfer cable supplied with the unit to your Windows laptop for examination. In some cases, this will be a standard USB or FireWire cable. Mobile video recorders, in particular, frequently require a proprietary cable. Having installed the DVR emulation software provided by the manufacturer and the proprietary encoder/decoder, you are ready to follow the instructions in the manual to retrieve the highest quality video possible.

If you need professional assistance recovering video evidence from a digital video recorder, please call us today! Call 800-647-4281 for a free consultation.

 

Police Car Video Surveillance ICV (In Car Video) Systems

Friday, January 10th, 2014

police car ICVWritten by Marc Linden

Over the past twenty years, the technology behind police car video surveillance systems has evolved significantly. Simultaneously, acceptance of these systems among citizens and police has continued to grow. Police car video surveillance systems are commonly referred to as in-car video (ICV), and I am often called to appear as an expert witness when such video recordings are introduced as evidence in a trial or hearing. My job is to clarify the contents of the video and check that the recording has not been tampered with in any way.

Modern ICV systems are completely digital and store compressed video with sound on hard-disk or solid-state drives. The police officer or state trooper wears a wireless mic, and a dash mounted camera captures video. During a traffic stop, the ICV makes a permanent record of everything that transpires between the police and motorist. The watermarked video is stored in a tamper-proof enclosure, and a careful chain of custody is maintained as the video is removed from the car, downloaded, and archived.

Here are the numbers: there are about 18,000 independent municipalities in the U.S., and they own roughly 450,000 patrol cars. Approximately 50% of those cars are currently equipped with ICV. With systems priced between $3,000 and $5,000 per vehicle, this represents a substantial investment. Despite tight local budgets, sales of ICV systems to state and local law enforcement continue to grow at a healthy rate.

Given the growth of the industry, I was quite surprised by a story related to me recently by a colleague. He said that the Massachusetts State Police had recently removed all ICV systems from their patrol cars in an effort to boost conviction rates in cases where traffic stops resulted in arrests. Could it be true that a completely objective record of arrests was of greater use to defense attorneys than prosecutors?

My colleague was right. Currently, not a single Massachusetts State Police patrol car is equipped with in-car video. But there’s more to the story. Their patrol cars have NEVER had ICV!

Digging deeper, I found that even though 72% of all Highway Patrol and State Police patrol cars are ICV equipped, there are 4 or 5 states where none of these vehicles have video, and Massachusetts is one of those states. It seems there are a variety of factors that play a part when state or local police make the choice to opt-out of ICV technology. There may be budgetary constraints, or officers and their unions may object on the grounds that ICV hampers police, who are constantly on guard against being caught making a mistake or an error in judgment. Then, there are different interpretations of overlapping federal, state, and local laws regarding privacy; there are states where audio and/or video recording requires dual party consent (e.g., Massachusetts), and there are states where single part consent is sufficient (e.g., Maine).

My guess, however, is that the most important factor in determining whether state or local police have ICV is public opinion. For some, the threat of “Big Brother” watching them 24/7 makes ICV an indefensible intrusion on their civil rights and their privacy. Massachusetts State Police have no in-car video and neither do local police in Boston. But anecdotal evidence suggests that the farther one travels east, away from Boston, the more local police patrol cars are ICV equipped.

Personally, I think ICV helps protect everyone involved, both officers and motorists. And according to The International Association of Chiefs of Police, in situations where an officer’s conduct has been called into question, police car video surveillance systems have helped exonerate those officers in 96.2% of all cases.

The Palace Brawl: The Significance of Video Evidence

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

palace brawlNovember 19, 2004 was the day the worst sporting brawl in US history took place. It was the final few minutes of the basketball game between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons when a fight broke out between the players. While Ron Artest was in time out, a drunken fan tossed a partially full beer cup and hit Artest causing him to jump over seats and attack a fan in the stands. With tempers running hot, Artest went after the wrong person and triggered an ‘every man for himself’ situation with only four Auburn Hills police officers in the building.

After the criminal litigations were over, the attorney for the Pacers, Steve Potter retained my services as a video forensic expert on behalf of the Indiana Pacers basketball team. My first activity was to collect all of the available video footage from that moment when the brawl broke out. As you can imagine there were many video sources. With the help of http://www.potterlaw.com/ , I found cell phone videos, CCTV system video from the Palace of Auburn Hills and four major television network multi camera video sources.

The next task was to cull through all the footage including multi camera views of the brawl and isolate those vantage point views that helped bring the brawl into the courtroom for the civil litigations.

I was prepared with several video clips when the first civil case went to trial, Haddad V Indiana Pacers on August 10, 2006. (Read all about it here).

Here are the video forensic activities I used to help the Trier of Fact and jurors’ view the brawl including all isolated incidents in question. After I received all video footage, I loaded the various formats into my forensic computer using Adobe Premiere Pro software.  I created sequences for each incident and placed the useful camera vantage point clips back to back in each sequence. Some events went by very fast so I repeated the video clips and added slow motion. In some cases I reduced the speed by 25%, 50% and 75% so all persons could see the series of events as they occurred.  When necessary I also added a zoom to enlarge the area of interest in each video clip.

In my opinion it is very important to place this series of clips back to back with a 5 second pause in between clips so the viewer can become acclimated with the series of events as they occurred.  For each clip vantage point there was an average of two to five minutes of video all persons could watch to see exactly what went down during the brawl.

Read more about the brawl:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacers%E2%80%93Pistons_brawl 

Footage from the infamous brawl can be found below:

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