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shutterstock 4774783781The use of body-worn cameras has become a topic of much discussion in law enforcement. On the public front, the technology has gained popularity as a new means for holding peace officers more accountable for their actions, while law enforcement agencies also see strong value in body camera footage as a form of protection against false allegations and reputational risks.

“Body cams ensure accountability from both sides,” says Zaki Horany, Law Enforcement Consulting Engineer with FileOnQ. “For officers, it's a better vantage point. We've all seen those 30-second videos of a police officer assaulting a criminal seemingly with no justification, but now you have that body-worn camera footage which clearly shows that person resisting arrest or trying to take a run at that officer. Now, police departments can release that video immediately to say, 'This is what really happened.'”

“Reports have come out saying that, because of this technology, public complaints have gone down tremendously because now they know everything is being recorded. At the same time, officer performance is also increasing, because their actions are also being recorded,” he adds.

Naturally, the demand for body cams has given rise to a number of proprietary hardware and software solutions – not all of which work well together. As such, law enforcement agencies hoping to integrate body cam footage into their operations must often do so using video evidence from competing sources across multiple evidence management systems.

“These videos are likely to be used as evidence, so they need to be treated like evidence,” says Manoj Philip, Chief Technologist with FileOnQ. “They need to be stored in an evidence management system with highly secure tracking and sharing capabilities. The life cycle of physical and digital evidence spans several years, even decades, and the custody of this evidence extends well beyond capture and immediate storage. You need to have software that can collect that video regardless of the manufacturer. After all, a few years down the road, there may be a new camera from a different camera manufacturer with more features, but you're stuck with a specific storage method and outdated cameras that might not mix well with this new technology. So, what can you do now to plan for the future?”

Adding to this challenge is the fact that body cam vendors often bundle their devices with locked-in video management software that is disconnected from current evidence management systems. This can create weaknesses in the chain of custody and lead to wasted time for investigators who now need to manage and maintain evidence from multiple sources.

“The accountability and credibility of not being able to access this footage efficiently is going to be a problem,” says Craig Fletcher, training manager with FileOnQ, suggesting, “What if a video gets released to the public without your knowledge because you didn't implement an effective storage policy, or a video you're using as evidence gets dismissed from court because you didn't have a chain of custody on it and can't prove it wasn't altered or compromised?”

Image 22The solution is to use single-source, hardware agnostic systems that can collect, track, and authenticate body cam footage from any piece of equipment.  Notes Fletcher: “A lot of law enforcement agencies have these really great cameras, but they're finding themselves stuck on the other end when it comes to finding a solution to manage and secure those videos in a place where they can quickly and easily search for what they need regardless of specific hardware. That's why solutions like our own DigitalOnQ platform are becoming more and more popular, because they fill that operational gap by allowing law enforcement to manage footage from multiple sources and combine it seamlessly with other evidence into one, secure platform.”

As video-capture technology continues to advance, Philip says the need for solutions like DigitalOnQ will continue to grow: “In the future, law enforcement agencies will have to deal with videos from numerous sources from drones to dash cameras to multiple cameras on each officer. Unless there's a solution in place to bring all those digital evidence items together, it's going to be a struggle to investigate and prosecute the majority of cases.”

Though the debate over body camera use may still be heated, it's clear the use of body cam technologies is here to stay. Managing these resources easily and accurately will, therefore, become a necessity for law enforcement agencies hoping to use that footage to strengthen their investigations and ensure their perspectives are always on the record.

FileOnQ, a data management and reporting solution designed for law enforcement, fire and rescue, the judicial system, medical examiners, and a variety of industries. For more, visit www.fileonq.com.

 

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