The environment that law enforcement agencies operate in continues to evolve with new and emerging challenges that drive the demand for better and more efficient means of documenting field operations. Fortunately, new video evidence capture and management solutions are available to help law enforcement professionals navigate this evolving landscape.
While capturing and documenting incidents is a primary concern, the technologies employed to do so needs to work seamlessly with other technologies and not interfere with police operations. They also need to protect the chain of custody and the privacy of individuals. No single device meets these criteria, so agencies must use a well-balanced, fully integrated system solution.
Here are seven ways new technologies can better support law enforcement and security field operations.
1. Body-worn cameras and in-car video systems document incidents
There is no question that video from body-worn cameras and in-car video systems improves the documentation of evidence for civil and criminal proceedings. Video provides one of the best forms of incident documentation submissible in court. It is essential that these video solutions can be activated automatically to capture events as they develop for forensic investigations and for use in court.
2. Secure video and data storage protect against tampering
In today’s world of deepfakes, video footage can be easily manipulated making it virtually indistinguishable from the original sources. For this reason, it is critical to ensure that any video evidence captured by police systems and other surveillance cameras is fully secure and cannot be accessed by unauthorized individuals. All video-capture devices, as well as servers where data is stored, must employ data encryption and other unassailable security features to ensure the integrity of video evidence. Cloud storage is also an excellent resource for this, as cloud providers typically employ the highest standards for cybersecurity.
3. Automated redaction protects the innocent
Video footage used for evidence often includes information that is not relevant to the case or should not be released to the public. Images of undercover officers, victims of sex crimes, and children can be recorded on body cameras and in-vehicle video. Also, cars passing by the incident scene will have their license plates captured or the faces of bystanders will be recorded. With agencies tasked with responding to an increasing volume of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, it can take a significant amount of personnel time to manually redact these details from videos. Technology provides a solution with automated redaction software, which greatly reduces the time required to blur license plates and faces. This enables quick and efficient responses to FOIA requests while also protecting the subjects' privacy where privacy is expected. Cloud solutions for video evidence storage also support privacy requirements, as they enable agencies to limit information sharing to only those authorized individuals.
4. New technologies can save time and money
Technology can further save taxpayer money through the use of a unified digital evidence (UDE) solution powered by artificial intelligence. An AI-powered UDE enables law enforcement professionals to review case evidence quicker and easier without having to search through multiple pieces of data or manually establish a timeline. Automated redaction software also saves time and budget by reducing up to 90% of the manual effort associated with editing video files. Selecting body cameras with 12-hour, field-swappable batteries can also help keep officers on the street longer, thus further optimizing resources. Cloud storage delivers another cost-saving benefit, as it is typically less costly and easier to scale and update than on-premises data storage solutions.
5. Chain-of-custody tools improve evidence integrity
Any time the chain of custody can be challenged successfully by defense attorneys, it damages the credibility of your evidence. A unified digital evidence management solution helps to ensure that all your critical video and data is fully tracked throughout its lifetime. Built-in audit trails safeguard the chain of custody by logging every user action that relates to each piece of evidence.
6. Technology can make officers more efficient
Many agencies have reduced staff due to personnel shortages or budget cuts. When fewer law enforcement officers are available, technology can help heavily burdened agencies accomplish their work more efficiently. Productivity gains can be realized with digital evidence management solutions and automated applications such as redaction software and facial recognition that streamline and speed up documentation processes and investigations.
7. Verifiable data enhances your credibility with the public
One of the best law enforcement tactics to help increase public safety is to strengthen the bonds between communities and the police. The best way to accomplish this is through practicing complete transparency surrounding public incidents. Here again, digital evidence management solutions provide the means to document events. Each piece of video, data, and metadata documentation contributes to what ultimately becomes an indisputable catalog of an incident. The combination of GPS data, motion analysis, and information about who has viewed footage and what edits have been made, provides further testimony as to the accuracy of the documentation.
Law enforcement agencies and officers now have access to more exceptional imaging, processing, networking and AI-driven technologies than ever before. Still, purchasing and deploying these system technologies often requires strong justification. Demonstrating that these new systems and solutions can help law enforcement agencies work more efficiently, increase public safety, and save taxpayer dollars presents a solid case for implementing this new generation of tools.
David O’Connor is director of the Public Safety Division for Panasonic i-PRO Sensing Solutions Corporation of America.