Doorbell Video Cameras: Forensic Pros and Cons

Doorbell video cameras are becoming increasingly popular in neighborhoods across the country. Not only are they reasonably priced, but they are easy to install and operate, giving individuals and families additional surveillance for their homes. However, these cameras have their drawbacks. Their low-quality video recordings can prove problematic should attempts be made to forensically enhance footage. Let’s take a closer look at how doorbell video cameras provide evidentiary support and the advantages and disadvantages you should be aware of before purchasing these security measures for your home.

DOORBELL VIDEO CAMERAS AS EVIDENCE

According to Government Technology Magazine, the Los Angeles Police Department reported that doorbell video cameras had reduced neighborhood burglaries in 2015 by as much as 55 percent in seven months (Shedlock, 2019)[i].

In 2019, our lab saw a significant increase in the number of cases utilizing evidence via doorbell video cameras. We are currently working on a case with crucial video evidence from a camera that captured a murder suspect. Although we can see the perpetrator from the neighbor’s doorbell video camera, we are unable to make an identification.

PROS OF DOORBELL VIDEO CAMERAS

As previously mentioned, doorbell video cameras are both affordable and easy to install. They connect through wifi and are accessible from your mobile device anywhere, anytime. These cameras help identify the knock at your door and deter “porch pirates” from stealing packages.

Doorbell cameras not only record video, but they can record audio as well. And based on our experience, there has been greater success in forensically enhanced audio rather than video. We currently have an active case that was originally ruled as a suicide but is now under investigation as a murder. Forensically enhanced audio revealed additional information and as a result, the investigation has been re-opened with a new case strategy.

Several manufacturers have recently released 4K resolution technology in doorbell cameras. Although our lab has not worked with 4K resolution footage yet, we anticipate there will be a dramatic increase in the success rate of forensic video enhancements due to the higher quality of video they will provide.

CONS OF DOORBELL VIDEO CAMERAS

One drawback of forensically enhancing doorbell video cameras is the amount of compression that occurs as a result of the operational structure. The video portion of these recordings can become highly compressed for a number of reasons. These include low-strength wifi connection, the use of cloud storage, and the limitations of the system settings. Compression reduces the quality of the video, especially at a distance, making it difficult to clearly see the events as they occurred.

Although it is convenient to connect these systems to your home wifi, it makes the video vulnerable to hackers that try to learn your day-to-day behavior.

According to CNet, researchers have found that doorbell cameras had vulnerability leaking wifi login information and could give hackers access to your account allowing them to stream and send messages to the user in an attempt to deceive.

“It had been sending this sensitive information over an unencrypted network, which meant that anyone viewing that network could have seen your username and password for your Wi-Fi. The potential hacker would have to be within a range of your Wi-Fi to carry out this attack.” [ii]

SINGLE VS MULTI VANTAGE POINT

When using doorbell cameras, there is only one camera view with one vantage point, limiting their effectiveness. CCTV systems, on the other hand, have multiple camera views with more than one vantage point. This means that more areas are covered in the video recordings which presents more options for forensic enhancement to the forensic video technician.

CCTV systems have multiple cameras installed that are typically out of reach, making it difficult for anyone to steal or damage them. Doorbell cameras, however, are mounted in closer ranges that are easy to access and susceptible to damage or theft.

BEFORE YOU BUY

There are many makes and manufacturers of doorbell video cameras. Our research has pointed us to PC Magazine, which featured the article The Best Video Doorbells for 2020 [iii]. Happy DIY Home also shared their top wireless doorbell choices for residential use [iv]. We recommend doing some research before purchasing a doorbell camera and consider home surveillance (CCTV system) as an option.

Browse our website for more information on forensic video enhancement and contact us with any questions.


[i] https://www.govtech.com/public-safety/Ring-Doorbell-Cameras-Help-Fight-Crime-Raise-Other-Issues.html

[ii] https://www.cnet.com/news/ring-doorbells-had-vulnerability-leaking-wi-fi-login-info-researchers-found/

[iii] https://www.pcmag.com/roundup/358684/the-best-video-doorbells

[iv] https://happydiyhome.com/wireless-doorbell/

Your Legal Right to Video Record Police

The following information on how to record police officers was gathered by the Primeau Forensics’ research team. Our goal is to answer the question, ‘Do citizens have a right to video record police officers?’ 

To best answer this question, we surveyed police officers, law enforcement leadership, concerned citizens, and attorneys to present their answers. What is more, concerned citizens can actually assist police officers when using proper video recording methods. Always remember, everyone’s safety is a top priority.

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

YOUR LEGAL RIGHT TO VIDEO RECORD POLICE

The Department of Homeland Security has a saying; ‘If you see something say something.’ Our philosophy is, ‘If you see something, film something.’

A concerned citizen has a legal right to video record police officers and can do so in public places. However, they cannot video record in a manner in which they interfere with the event or investigation. This includes video recording too close within the officer’s tactical operating area. Again, safety is a priority. 

Interference to an investigation diverts the police officers’ attention and reduces their focus. In other words, does the police officer consider that you are interfering with the investigation at that time? If an officer warns you during a video recording, adjust your approach, where you’re standing, and what you’re filming.

Be aware that an officer may have a tremendous amount on his or her mind. As a result, they may be in a heightened sense of awareness from the current or previous incident. Keep this in mind when you are video recording police officers.

YOUR RIGHT TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS

If you are a witness, write down your name and number for the police officer and mention 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. Some witnesses whose employment may require them to present their recordings and statements to assist a police officer. These include nurses, social workers, security officers, paramedics, and first responders. 

Whether you record an event or an eyewitness, you could be ordered to appear in court. You may even be asked to give a statement.

THE IMPORTANCE OF REMAINING UNBIASED

It is critical to remain unbiased while recording police officers. In order to protect the integrity of the investigation and those involved, record the entire event. We find that some witnesses focus on the police officer only. Pointing the camera directly at the officer introduces bias and makes the video recording difficult to view in its entirety.

Record the entire interaction of all parties. Don’t find offense in the police officer telling you to back up or to move away. Another article that may help in understanding how best to prepare digital evidence can be found on the blog. 

Your Right to Video Record Police

CONTACT FORENSIC EXPERTS

The guidelines for how to video record police officers safely are based primarily on Michigan case law. For more information, visit the Michigan legislature website. Finally, contact the Primeau Forensic’s team for more information or questions on your legal right to record police officers. Learn more about techniques with which to video record police in our next blog post

Your Legal Right to Video Record Police

5 Techniques for Video Recording Police

In this post, we share several techniques for video recording police officers safely and respectfully. These follow our discussion on the legality of recording law enforcement, which you can explore by following the link. Because these encounters often involve smartphone recordings, the following methodology focuses on that medium. Follow along for deeper insight into these techniques. 

THE RISE OF THE SMARTPHONE

Statistics show that 77% of Americans use a smartphone. Additionally, more apps are brought to the market every day that make recording and sharing videos simple. It comes as no surprise that an average of 60 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. 

Techniques to Record Police

What does that have to do with video recording police officers and video forensics? Citizens are capturing both criminal activity and law enforcement interactions with their smartphones.

These videos become an integral part of the investigation. And unfortunately, there are forensic enhancement limitations for poor video quality. The following techniques for recording police officers will help you acquire the best recording possible.

5 TECHNIQUES FOR RECORDING POLICE

TECHNIQUE #1: STABLE FOOTAGE

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 autofocus. Also, be sure to keep a safe distance. Should the video need additional zooming, it can be forensically enhanced.

Your Right to Video Record Police
TECHNIQUE #2: LANDSCAPE MODE

Always film in landscape mode. It offers a wider view and provides investigators with valuable information, such as point of entry, outside factors, and other surroundings. Additionally, filming in landscape mode provides a clearer image for forensic experts.

TECHNIQUE #3: DO NOT ESCALATE SITUATION

If you feel like you are too close to the situation, step back. Safety for you and everyone else is most important. 

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.

TECHNIQUE #4: HAND OFF VIDEO TO PROPER AUTHORITIES BEFORE EDITING OR UPLOADING

Don’t alter the video in anyway. Alteration includes shortening the video, using apps or software to enhance the video or audio, or adding effects. All of these adjustments affect the chain of custody and the forensic expert’s ability to identify or authenticate the video. 

Chain of custody refers to the order in which evidence should be handled by persons investigating a case. Specifically, the unbroken trail of accountability ensuring the physical security of samples, data, and records in a criminal investigation.

We have all seen viral videos on social media or news outlets of criminal activity or law enforcement interactions. However, 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.

Techniques for Recording Police
TECHNIQUE #5: REMAIN UNBIASED

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. 

Begin filming as soon as possible and continue until the interaction is finalized. Another good idea is to use multiple cameras when available. Not only does this provide multiple viewpoints, but also multiple versions of the recording for the best possible outcome.

BE MINDFUL AND RESPECTFUL

If you are filming an interaction with law enforcement, be mindful and respectful of the officer’s tactical operating area. Take the appropriate measures to speak directly with an officer’s supervisor if concerned with their actions. And if the officer asks you to back up, they do it for your safety. It is always best to work with the officer and not against them.

Also, 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.”

CONTACT FORENSIC EXPERTS

The guidelines for how to video record police officers safely are based primarily on Michigan case law. For more information, visit the Michigan legislature website. Contact the Primeau Forensic’s team for more information or questions on the techniques for video recording police officers discussed here. And learn more on your legal right to video record police on our previous blog post

Smart Phone Video Enhancement

Smart phone video enhancement is the process of applying scientific applications to a video recording in order to better see the events as they occurred. Smart phones record video events such as an accident or crime. We forensically clarify or enhance to better see these events. In the following paragraphs, we hope to communicate some information that will guide you on forensic video enhancement. We have included some before and after forensic enhancement examples for your review. We also include advise on what to do to best capture an event in for forensic enhancement. Most people recrod smart phone video evidence freehand or without a tripod, so you can’t guarantee the video usability. When people are nervous they shake while recording. In this case do not zoom in too much. A wide shot is less shaky than a zoomed in shot. Shaky video can result in less than quality video evidence.

Record on your Smart Phone Video Horizontally or Landscape

When recording video on your smart phone, hold the phone horizontally and try not to zoom in. One of the most prevalent problems we have seen with video recordings are they shake and are not stable. The chaotic motion of a cell phone video can make it hard to see what’s happening.

Forensic Video Enhancement

The two clips below will help you understand how video forensic video enhancement works. The first clip is of an forensically enhanced iPhone video. The original video was a distant view from down the block as it was recorded. In the sample below, please note no stabilization or other forensic enhancement has been applied to this video. In the enhanced sample below, we applied warp stabilization. Notice how the frame follows the motion of the video, creating a more stable picture for analysis. As you can see, the subject in the video was not close enough to the smart phone camera. This makes it difficult to see the desired events as they occurred. Clip one is not very helpful in this condition for use in court. The subjects are very far away, making it difficult to see the recorded events as they occurred.

The Science of Forensic Video Enhancement

The forensic video enhancement process is not as simple as zooming in on the video recording. This will lower your overall video quality. Fixing it or enhancing your video isn’t nearly as simple as pushing the enhance button on your computer. Reduced video quality occurs when you zoom in and has to do with pixels. Simply put, pixels are the small boxes of color code that combine to make up a given image. Each image is a series of pixels that display the image you see in front of you. Expanding an image means also expanding the size of each pixel. Because each pixel is representative of one ?frame? of a bigger picture, such as photos making up a collage, each individual square pixel will expand along with the image. The increase of pixel size can cause distortion to the image, therefore making it even harder to decipher the contents of an image.

Why a Forensic Expert is Necessary

This is where a video forensic expert is necessary. We have training in video enhancement and experience using the hardware and software tools capable of clarifying and enhancing the events that occurred when you recorded your video. As you saw in the second video sample above, the image has been expanded so that we can see the events that occurred up close. Video quality has not been comprised. This is because of training and experience. At the risk of being redundant, the biggest problem we see with smart phone video evidence is the orientation of the cell phone while recording. When we receive smart phone video evidence, many of the video recordings are vertically oriented. If your footage becomes evidence; not having a horizontal (or landscape) recorded video to work with really constricts your range of sight of a given event. Utilizing the footage above as another example, notice that around the 0:25 second mark, the camera focuses on the Jeep pulling up, as another officer runs towards the scene. This takes our focus away from the scene, and we miss a substantial amount of the incident. Had this evidence been shot horizontally, we may have been able to see what happened when that officer arrived to the scene, along with seeing the white Jeep parking in the background. With the expansion of smart phone video technology, your smart phone can be of assistance recording crime and criminal activity. It is important to understand smart phone video enhancement from the forensic expert?s perspective. The highest quality video recording will reveal more in court. However, despite the quality, it is crucial to employ a video forensic expert to make the most out of your smart phone video.

How can Forensic Video Enhancement Help Investigators?

forensic Video enhancementHow can forensic video enhancement help investigators? In this blog post, we’ll explore its benefits and why there is a growing need for it in today’s court system. Forensic video enhancement is the scientific approach to clarifying a video recording in order to better see the events as they occurred. It can help litigators understand events that are difficult to see because of excess movement, distance, or the video is too dark. For example, CCTV cameras outside retail stores helped the FBI capture the terrorists who were responsible for the Boston bombings. Videos often need forensic enhancement because cameras are not properly maintained. This is a huge problem that goes unnoticed until after the crime has been committed. Or, worse yet, the cameras are not installed or positioned properly. Read on for a few facts on forensic video enhancement.

Original Video

Always begin with the original video recording. Maintain a chain of custody for your video recording. If you have to export an AVI file to provide to police, keep a backup on thumb drive for insurance. If you have is a copy on DVD and not the original, then load the DVD copy of the video directly into your computer for forensic video enhancement.

Computer Software

Use professional forensic software program to enhance like Adobe Premiere Pro and Clear ID. Primeau Forensics uses these, as well as Adobe Photo Shop, to enhance images exported from the video for forensic video enhancement. Remember, you can also export frames as still images to identify activity and other video components.

Color Correction

Perform a color correction process first before performing any other forensic enhancement process. This is especially important if your video recording is dark. Be careful not to add too much brightness.

Enlargement

If you need to enlarge a portion of the recorded video viewing area, apply after you review the footage on a large video monitor. At Primeau Forensics, we use minimum 27 professional video monitors. Remember, the larger the playback monitor, the better you can see events in the video and the less you need to enlarge your video as an enhancement step. This is even more important in the courtroom.

Equipment

It is good to know the type of equipment that made the video you are enhancing. Often times, a poor CCTV video export may be to blame for the poor video quality. If the recording is stored on the system, we can make sure we have the best export to work with for forensic video enhancement. Forensic video enhancement is an art as well as a science. Please understand that you should use different filtering to get different results. Always begin with the largest file size and structure as close to original digital video recording as possible. Have further questions on how can forensic video enhancement help investigators? Call us for a consultation on your video that needs forensic enhancement 800.647.4281

Laquan McDonald Police Video With Audio is Fake

The Chicago Police Department released dash cam video of the Laquan McDonald shooting. Although most dash camera video recordings include an audio track, this did not. Concerned citizens believed that the audio portion of the video recording was intentionally deleted or altered. We previously explored why there could be an absence of audio during these videos on the blog. In the meantime, a video of the same incident, allegedly with audio, posted on YouTube. Concerned citizens believed this genuine video included the missing audio. Primeau Forensics investigated the YouTube video and here we offer an opinion as to the authenticity of this second version of the dash cam video that included audio. During our investigation of the YouTube video titled ‘Is this the audio Chicago Police dash cam video of Laquan McDonald shooting?’, we discovered several inconsistencies that scientifically revealed the second YouTube video is a fake. Using time domain analysis, frequency domain analysis, and critical listening skills, we have outlined these anomalies and inconsistencies below.

Frequency Analysis:

Frequency_Analysis_Laquan In the image above, the spectrogram reading shows the cutoff frequency of the gunshots well above the cutoff frequency of the noise floor (background noise, radio chatter & siren). Shown below, a display of the difference in frequency content between the gunshots and background noise. Red vertical sections represent gunshots. Frequency_Analysis_Laquan_2 The audio’s cutoff frequency from the YouTube video titled ‘Is this the audio Chicago Police dash cam video of Laquan McDonald shooting?’ is roughly 16 kHz. Displayed below, the audio’s cutoff frequency from the YouTube video at 16 kHz. Frequency_Analysis_Laquan_3 Audio recorded evidence produced from law enforcement vehicles contains a cutoff frequency of 4 kHz. I examined the frequency analysis of the original video that lacks audio. The cutoff frequency analysis of the original audio portion is 4 kHz and displayed below: Frequency_Analysis_Laquan_4 Based on forensic testing and analysis, I can confidently say that an unknown party manufactured and added the audio portion in the second YouTube video after the fact.  Frequency_Analysis_Laquan_5 The original video contains recorded audio content of cross-talk and engine noise (see above image). The audible noises within the original video recording have low amplitude. However, they are heard with a significant increase in volume. Because this digital recorder in the police car recorded audio track, I believe the recorder was functional. Due to the lack of officer dialogue and radio chatter, we believe the on-person lavalier microphone within the vehicle was muted, disconnected, or deactivated.

Inauthentic Audio Results

The gunshots and radio chatter heard throughout the YouTube video titled ‘Is this the audio Chicago Police dash cam video of Laquan McDonald shooting?’ are duplicated, equalized, and not authentic. I previously discussed the inconsistency between the cutoff frequency of the gunshots and the background noise. 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, sound of the gunshot, as well as duration of the sound are almost identical. See image below for gunshot sounds. Frequency_Analysis_Laquan_6 The radio chatter sample at timecode 0:04.387 (MM:SS:MS) is an exact duplicate of 0:03.000 (MM:SS:MS). And so, the conversation being spoken is identical. The differnece is that the duplicate has been processed using equalization to deceive the listener into believing it is radio conversation. The Laquan McDonald police video with audio is indeed fake.

The Video Recordings of the Shooting of Laquan McDonald

Laquan McDonaldOn November 24, 2015, police release video that captured the shooting of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, Illinois, almost 13 months after the incident took place. There has been a public outcry regarding not only the death of McDonald, but also the videos themselves. The following blog post clarifies why there could be an absence of audio during the multiple videos released by the city of Chicago from the Laquan McDonald shooting.

Dash Camera Surveillance Systems Record Video and Audio

Video surveillance systems, or closed circuit video recording systems, keep a pre-determined area under security. Not all video surveillance systems record audio. Video surveillance systems in many department stores do not record audio, while those in gas stations, convenience stores and banks often do. Police car dash cam surveillance systems record both audio and video for further officer protection and to deter profiling.

Video Surveillance Systems include Audio Recording

The question remains, why do the videos released by Chicago authorities of the Laquan McDonald shooting lack audio? What are the sounds heard on the video recordings that sound like sirens or whining? If you watched the videos released thus far, you hear electronic noise. The digital video recorder in the squad car recorded audio, though no audio signal was being sent to the recorder. Was this a technical glitch or did the officers not activate their body microphones? Perhaps they were all muted? Was there a problem downloading the digital recordings from each police car? Who maintains chain of custody logs for handling this evidence? In an interview for the Associated Press, our lead digital media forensic expert, Ed Primeau, comments on the lack of audio from multiple police cars being a red flag. Additioanlly, fellow forensic expert Gregg Stuchman comments in a second interview for the Associated Press, “It’s plausible for a single squad car to have a glitch preventing sound recording.” Then how could multiple cars not have recorded audio? “I’ve never heard of it before,” Stutchman said. “It raises a red flag. The more likely explanation is that audio was intentionally switched off.”

The Need for a Forensic Investigation

Furthermore, a forensic investigation performed by a neutral, independent forensic expert can determine the reason for the absence of police dialogue and radio communication in the Laquan McDonald shooting. Primeau Foresnics has examined thousands of police dash cam systems. Some include audio, others do not. There are three methods of activating dash cam video and audio.
  1. The officer activates the recording manually.
  2. The squad car reaches a certain, predetermined speed for recording to begin.
  3. The video records when the squad car flashers activate.
Either way, officers have the ability to mute or deactivate their body microphone transmitter. However, the car microphone almost always remains on.

YouTube Fake Squad Car Video

The Associated Press asked Primeau Forensics to examine a YouTube video of the Laquan McDonald shooting that has audio. After careful forensic examination, Ed Primeau concluded beyond a reasonable degree of scientific certainty that the audio track on the video lacks authenticity. Careful analysis of the audio spectrum contained on the video indicates many signs of post event alterations. Most importantly, we hope this blog post about dash cam video and audio surveillance recordings clears up any misconception about the absence of audio on the Chicago Police dash camera videos.

Audio in Video Evidence

Audio EvidenceWhen performing audio and video authentication and analysis, a trained forensic expert will utilize several methods in an attempt to detect an edit in a video recording used as evidence. Often times, a critical ear is just as important to a video forensic expert as the scientific community accepted software tools and an established chain of custody.

The Great Worth of an Audio File

A picture is worth a thousand words. However, an audio file can be worth even more in a video forensic laboratory. A trained video forensic expert knows what to look and listen for 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 an anomaly or edit when investigating a video recording. To do so there’s a process and protocol we follow at Primeau Forensics.

Audio Basics

Sound pressure waves are the building blocks of audio, which are representative of the change in air pressure in a recording. One characteristic of sound pressure waves is that they are always smooth and continuous. 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 occurs. A recording edit 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 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, editing occurred.

Detecting Audio Edits

Adobe and Izatope RX have software that allow 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 have altered audio, and subsequently altered video. There are many ways to detect edits visually when reviewing digital video evidence. Establishing a chain of custody, as well as performing forensic video authentication and analysis, will reveal integrity in your video recording or anamolies if the CCTV video recording has been comprised.

Increase in Body Worn Cameras and Video Evidence for Trial

vievu In 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 events as they occurred.

Body Worn Camera Usage Grows

An increase in activity began in 2013 when body worn cameras helped locate and identify the Boston Marathon Bombers. FBI investigators culled through hundreds of hours of CCTV video surveillance recordings in order to identify the terrorists that responsible for these acts of violence. Video evidence is expanding to include body worn cameras implemented into many police agencies across the United States. At this point in time, agencies around the country are testing different makes of body cameras and learning how to properly integrate them into their procedures. Many have been transparent with their testing and have begun to approve funding for additional cameras. The Grand Rapids, Michigan Police Department recently tested two different kinds of body worn cameras among its officers. Following their positive feedback, the city approved funding for two hundred additional cameras. The Seattle, Washington Police Department has also been very open about their body camera testing. They even released testing footage online for public view. The public has been pushing for police worn body cameras since the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri last August.

Benefits of Body Worn Cameras

Body worn cameras protect everyone; police officers and citizens alike. Many police agencies fully support camera use because they reduce the questioning of events during an altercation. If a disagreement comes against an officer, internal affairs can 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 in body worn cameras is the amount of data being created. Video evidence requires a very large amount of secure storage. Thankfully, many companies providing these cameras also include proprietary software. This ensures the evidence remains unaltered between the camera and the system. Only authorized personnel have access to the video to maintain the authenticity and safety of the video evidence.

Forensic Advantages of Body Worn Cameras

As video forensic experts, we see many benefits to this increase in body worn cameras. We have worked on numerous cases in which evidence from these cameras greatly helped the investigation and proceeding trial. Police dash cameras have often been used as evidence, but they fail to the capture the entire altercation because of their stationary view. Police body worn cameras add a second perspective used along with the dash cam which can be invaluable to an investigation. Having two angles provides a better picture of what happened. 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 also encourage you to review our series on How to Properly Record a Police Officer.

Video Evidence | South Carolina Officer Shooting Unarmed Black Man

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 video evidence that surfaced of the North Charleston officer, Michael Slager, firing eight times at the unarmed man as the man fled in an open field.

The Series of Events

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. The reports also state that Mr. Scott took Officer Slager’s stun gun, which lead to a reasonable pursuit. However, the video seems to show a different story. First, the stun gun is dropped. Second, the officer guns down Mr. Scott and drops something next to the unarmed man. It is not clear 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.

Video Evidence Benefits

In either case, the innocent bystander who recorded the 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. As a result, we’re provided with additional digital video evidence for this investigation. As you see in the first few seconds of the video, 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 see the shooting clearly. Situations like this help reinforce the importance of the 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 the Good Samaritan, this story may have gone unseen and unnoticed. You can watch the video below via the NY Times: