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 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.