Investigators and prosecutors need to know if the video evidence is fit for the purpose for which they want to use it.
In the quest for video interrogation, there are several types of tools to consider:
1) How do you retrieve cell phone evidence?
The most common source of cell phone evidence is, of course, social media. People love to post their videos online, and this public space often provides opportunities for investigator.
However, investigators must consider that the person who uploaded the visual evidence may have edited the video to highlight the main event. Investigators should attempt to recover the original video data, either from the person who recorded the video, or by other authentication means.
The easiest way to capture recorded cell phone videos is to leverage something like Axon Citizen, which allows officers to send sharing requests directly to another smartphone. The person who recorded the video receives a link where they can directly load their recording into Axon Evidence, ensuring the original file is saved and tracked from capture to courtroom.
While recovering the original data can often be done via a simple request or by a search warrant, acquisition may also require technical competence, precision, and physical connection to the device. Direct access to most cell phones can be accomplished via specialized tools from companies such as Cellebrite, who produce a family of sophisticated technologies dedicated to the acquisition and analysis of cell phone data.
2) How do you retrieve the video evidence from a security system?
Products such as DME’s DVR Examiner allow investigators and analysts to access a DVR Hard Drive directly and bypass many system passwords to recover data from both active and non-functioning systems.
3) How will you organize and store the evidence?
If you recover multiple video files from multiple sources, it is important to store them in a central database. This can be quite challenging as both security systems and mobile devices are capturing at a higher resolution than ever before. While capturing more detailed images helps with picture quality, the size of the files can become massive.
Storage, file management, and proper audit trails can be a nightmare without a solid evidence management system such as Axon Evidence.
4) How will you view and authenticate the evidence?
While most cell phone videos are recorded in standard formats, not all video encoders are equal.
The vast majority of DVRs produce images that only play back with specialized proprietary players. DVR manufactures often obfuscate access to their visual data in order to force the end user to invest in their proprietary solution for playback. Since there are literally thousands of DVRs in use in public and private venues, police investigators cannot possibly maintain individual equipment from every manufacture to cover every eventuality.
Axon Investigate is a best of breed tool designed specifically for police investigators who want instant and accurate access to their video evidence, without the need to install proprietary software into their departmental IT infrastructure.
Axon Investigate provides a simple drag, drop and play interface, giving investigators and attorneys the immediate capability to review video accurately, with lossless frame reproduction. The technology walks the user through a simplified interrogation process, answering most of the questions needed to prove authentication.
Additionally, video evidence can be divided into relevant subclips, still images can be accurately extracted with a single button push, visual case notes can be produced and tagged to specific images or clip, and multiple video sources can be synchronized into a single exhibit, producing compelling exhibits.
5) What if you have video files from multiple recording devices like proprietary security systems?
Most investigations are not limited to cell phone video. Criminal cases often involve video from a variety of sources that can all be used to validate and authenticate the others.
Having a single software solution that allows investigators to interrogate the video evidence, regardless of source or the proprietary nature of the data, is critical to a successful and timely investigation. Software, such as Axon Investigate, which plays thousands of proprietary video formats, can propel an investigation forward, contributing to an effective, accurate and speedy outcome.
6) How will you present the video evidence in court?
Many courtrooms lack the proper setup for playing video evidence, with poorly maintained projectors and old projection screens being far too common. You will want to ensure that there is a good solution to display video evidence in court, otherwise the evidence could easily be missed or misinterpreted.
Always remember that your audience, today’s juror, owns and operates a cell phone and generally adopts the belief that your eyes do not lie.
After interrogating your video file and verifying that it is an accurate witness to the facts, accurate reproduction of the images is critical to the court record.
Can you trust cell phone video evidence?
If you asked the average person on the street if they trust video evidence, the resounding answer would be, “Yes!”
A survey of professional investigators has shown that the majority of experienced police investigators either agree or strongly agree that video is the “silent witness that speaks for itself.” This is akin to trusting every eyewitness, simply because they say so.