Body-Worn Cameras: Life or Death

The more video becomes available, the more real life situations enter the courtroom. Not to mention, the quality of body-worn cameras is improving to the point that video forensic enhancement is not necessary.

VIEVU Camera

BODY WORN CAMERA RECORDS MURDER

For example, a department-issued body-worn camera recently captured events leading up to an officer’s murder in Flagstaff, Arizona. If the suspect hadn’t gone on to commit suicide, he could have stood trial to claim innonence in the incident. In this case, the video would save thousands of dollars that would have been spent investigating the officer’s death.

PRIMEAU FORENSICS TESTS BODY WORN CAMERAS

Primeau Forensics recently worked with VIEVU, a manufacturer based out of Seattle, Washington, to help in the research and development of their body-worn cameras. VIEVU sells its cameras to more than 4,000 police agencies in 16 countries. Our team helped them test the field of view (FOV) for their cameras. Additionally, we researched the various FOV options to learn the optimal lens degree in field situations.

APPROVED FUNDING FOR POLICE DEPARTMENTS

President Obama recently proposed a bill to provide police department for the purchase of body-worn cameras. The proposal includes $75 million to help pay for 50,000 of the lapel-mounted cameras, with state and local governments paying half the cost. This proposal came shortly after the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. What is more, this is a crucial development in forensic video. These cameras help litigators learn more about a series of events that occurred, a reality that excites video forensic experts like ourselves. Most importantly, this has the ability to save our judicial system money and ensure a correct decision in a person’s guilt or innocence.

A Video Forensic Expert Looks at the VIEVU Wearable Camera

Vievu LE2

Giving the VIEVU LE2 my highest recommendation is easy. It is, without a doubt, the best wearable personal surveillance camera I have encountered in 25+ years as a video forensics investigator. Developed by police for police, this unit gets it all right; size, shape, weight, operation, picture quality, sound quality, date & time stamp, capacity, convenient downloading, storage, management, and digital signature security.


Advantages to Video Recordings

Obtaining a video recording of events at a traffic stop, pedestrian stop, crime scene, or call for assistance is most important. A video that captures the point of view of the officer is invaluable as a record of all an officer’s activities. Not only does it protect officers and citizens, but it holds all parties accountable. Videos are also introduced as an evidentiary recording in a court of law. Put simply, having some kind of recording is always better than having no recording at all. I would choose the VIEVU over a fixed vehicle cam or handheld camcorder every time. Unobtrusive, reliable, and easy to operate, I look forward to the time when every police officer in the country wears a VIEVU.


Challenges of Video Recordings as an Expert Witness

Testifying as an expert witness, I’m most often challenged by the opposition attorneys in the chain of custody and findings. Years of experience lend confidence in my analysis of the evidentiary video recording. Issues arising from authenticity and chain of custody are more challenging.

I am not always the person who retrieves the recording. That means that I must rely upon the record-keeping of others to establish an unbroken chain of custody, a paper or digital trail that accounts for every individual who had the recording in his or her possession up until I receive it and thereafter.


VIEVU Software

VIEVU solves this problem with its VERIPATROL VidLock Security Suite. The software utilizes a FIPS 140-2 (Federal Information Processing Standard) compliant digital signature, which guarantees the recording’s authenticity and integrity. This cryptographic standard ensures the authorship of the recording and that it remains unedited.

The LE2 records at 640 x 480, standard definition, but with an important difference. Under forensic examination, most standard definition video is actually 640 x 240, because each frame of video is made up of two fields. With standard, interlaced scanning, the odd vertical lines record before the even lines, which produces a visible lag when viewing the full-frame. The LE2 employs progressive scanning, in which all 480 lines record simultaneously, producing superior vertical resolution. 30 ips (Images Per Second) is always preferable to 30 fps (Frames Per Second).

This makes my job easier when performing forensic video analysis. Digital footage captured at 640 x 480p strikes a good balance between file size and resolution. Since most conversations occur at a distance of six feet or less, officers wearing a VIEVU record an ideal, detailed field of view, thanks to the unit’s well-chosen, 71 wide-angle lens.


Our Recommendation

I use the LE2 to document evidence retrieval in the field. The camera works perfectly, providing a time-stamped video record of the DVR I’m working on and its location. And I’m looking forward to receiving the company’s newest upgrade, the hi-def LE3.

For more info on VIEVU and their products, check out CEO Ed Primeau’s interview with VIEVU CEO Steve Ward here!