Video evidence is an ever-increasingly important part of police investigations. If a picture is worth a thousands words, then a moving picture with sound showing a judge and jury precisely how a suspect committed a crime, or admitted to it after the fact, is worth a million words. Many video evidence technologies exist on the market today, with new items being released on a constant basis. Here are some products worthy of serious consideration by any police department, large or small. Quick-Deploy Wireless Video
Video surveillance is a great idea for nailing drug dealers, until you have to deploy the equipment in the field. Even the dumbest of dealers will get suspicious if he sees people outside his “crib,” busily stringing wires and mounting camera-like objects on lamp posts.
Axis Communications has solved this problem by combining a small Axis video camera with its Axis Junxion box, which comes with an IP encoder and 3G cellular broadband transmitter. Add batteries or an external power source, and you have a wireless surveillance camera whose feed is converted to IP data, then transmitted through the nearest commercial wireless network. You can then hide the camera in a quickly attached, innocuously labeled utility box outside the surveillance target, inside a newspaper box, or even conceal it in a pile of dirty laundry on the seat of an unmanned undercover vehicle parked at the scene.
Here is the best part. Since it is IP-based, this surveillance video can be seen by anyone with authorization on the departmental LAN. Patrol cars equipped with network-connected laptops can also see this video in real time, as can officers on their way to a bust. Imagine how much more safely raids can be conducted when officers go in, equipped with up-to-the-minute intel on who is in the house. Then imagine how useful the footage will be in court, including when police are challenged by the defense regarding the conduct of the raid. The Dallas Police Department is currently using these systems to aid in narcotics investigations with great success.
Multi-channel In-Car DVR
Dakota Micro has developed and is now selling the ID-Mobile four-channel mobile DVR (digital video recorder) with a patented dual forward-facing camera setup and a backseat camera for suspect monitoring. The fourth channel can be used for a rear deck camera (optional) or to record video from a remote wireless camera. Dakota Micro sells this system complete with software to manage video files downloaded to an external computer via the 100GB removable HDD and included docking station.
“Mobile recording technology has greatly improved a department’s ability to gather evidence without adding extra responsibilities to an officer’s daily routine,” said Jeff Huckle, Dakota Micro’s VP of sales. “The benefit of this type of technology is the ability to record each incident that an officer is involved with, providing video evidence to protect the officer and the individual or individuals involved. It also allows for audio information to be recorded, adding an extra dimension to the video evidence and providing an honest and accurate account of each incident.”
The ID-Mobile DVR is currently being used by the Dunn County, WI Sheriff’s Department, the Richland County, ND Sheriff’s Department, and the St. Croix, WI Police Department, among others. Dakota Micro also sells a range of in-car LCD color displays, wireless components and accessories.
A Digital Eye on Interrogations
It makes sense to video record, systemize and manage interrogations, and to do it as effectively as possible. To help the process, Microception has invented a digital interrogation recording and management tool called VideOversight. When connected to a department’s local area network (LAN), VideOversight’s distributed recording architecture enables authorized users to view live, record and playback interrogations from their desk, with the ability to provide audio instructions to the interrogator in real time. It will even support dual camera feeds at the same time, from the same room.
VideOversight then automatically archives all of the video in a central server at the department, making it available over the LAN for later review and for export to external media for use in court. VideOversight also lets authorized users store, retrieve and share interview recordings and associated electronic media, i.e., digital crime scene photos, documents, spreadsheets and notes, in online case files. The system has a search function with the ability to do full text search on notes. Users can flag important video segments with a descriptive note and jump directly to that point in the video with a mouse click.
For safety’s sake, VideOveright uses double recording redundancy, with the video being saved on the interview room’s DVR, plus an archive server and on CD/DVD. The video’s authenticity is verified during recording using a Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA) of the U.S. Digital Signature Standard. Finally, you can add as many users as you like to VideOversight because it comes without a per-user license fee.
“The electronic recording of custodial interrogations and investigative interviews is a powerful and efficient law enforcement tool,” said Karl Parandjuk, Microception’s president. “Coupled with sound policies and procedures, video can protect the rights of defendants while ensuring a factual presentation of evidence, making it a persuasive tool for prosecutors and juries alike. VideOversight is the latest, most advanced offering in this field.”
Showing Video Evidence in Court
Displaying video evidence in a courtroom can be problematic. In order for the judge, jury, legal teams, and visitors to see the evidence clearly, multiple monitors are required. The question is, “How can one video source connect to and supply these monitors quickly, easily, and reliably?”
Minicom’s answer to this problem is its DSVision 3000 Video Distribution System. The DSVision 3000 lets you plug in a single video / VGA source, and feed literally thousands of monitors far away from the playback source (tape or digital video player).
“The DSVision 3000 is the first video distribution / multiplication product that allows for HD video, digital stereo audio, and full bi-directional serial signals to be distributed up to 2,000 feet on one single CATx (5/6/7) cable per screen,” said Mizell Wilson, Minicom’s North American marketing manager. “The most practical application of our technology is in courtroom presentation of evidence. Our original VDS/AVDS systems are widely installed in courtrooms across the country for presentation of evidence to judge, jury, gallery, and any other person needing to clearly see.”
Forensic Video Tools
Ocean Systems is best known for its dTective forensic video analysis software. Based on Avid video editing technology, dTective can digitize full-screen (720 x 486) uncompressed analog video from any composite, component, S-Video, DV or MPEG 50 video source. This means that dTective will handle inputs from VHS-resolution security tapes, digital-based closed circuit television files, and high-resolution television news tapes.
Once in the dTective system, the user can break interlaced frames into separate fields to provide more discernible visual data; de-multiplex security multi-camera feeds so that only one video feed is being shown at a time; and convert time-lapse photography into more easily analyzed real-time video.
“With over 1,000 systems in service in the U.S. and around the world, dTective is courtroom tested, having been used in a wide range of high-profile cases,” said Charles Guarino, Ocean Systems’ director of marketing. “Because of the power of these tools and Ocean Systems’ commitment to our customers, dTective is considered by most law enforcement agencies to be the standard and their system of choice. Our systems are utilized by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies as well as other government and private security groups in the U.S. and around the world.”
Ocean Systems is about to release dTective Version 6 and the forensic audio tool DAC Audio Enhancement Version 2.1, which will include a 20-band graphic equalizer. Available now are ClearID Image Clarification Version 2.0-ClearID Workflow, and DVR dCoder 2.1.
“ClearID is all about workflow,” Guarino said. “In Version 2.0, we have added a new master workflow menu that walks people through the image clarification process. Meanwhile, DVR dCoder 2.1 add uncompressed graphic file exports to the number of proprietary digital video formats this program can decode for use in dTective. It can even import video shot on cellphones!
Mobile Digital Video Recorders
When it comes to recording video evidence, tape is definitely out of date. For the 21st century, it makes sense to install an all-digital system, whose evidence can be stored, shared, and transferred over IP-based networks.
The heart of a mobile digital video system is its digital video recorder (DVR); the hard drive where camera video is captured, stored, and ultimately removed from. Safety Vision makes two such mobile DVRs: the PatrolRecorder CF and the PatrolRecorder HRD.
The PatrolRecorder CF records video to a removable 8 GB flash memory card for easy removal. Depending on the picture size and compression rate selected, this CF card can hold anywhere from 4.6 to 13.2 hours of video. For more capacity, the PatrolRecorder RHD offers a removable hard drive rated at either 40 GB or 120 GB. At 40 GB, you can store anywhere from 23 to 66 hours; with 120 GB, you can store 69.5 to 199 hours.
The list of law enforcement agencies using PatrolRecorder includes the Belmont, NC Police; the Mt. Vernon, OH Police and the Kemah, TX Police.
James Careless is a freelance writer who specializes in first responder communications issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.