5 essential tips for recording body camera video evidence
Here are five tips for recording body camera evidence the right way
The following is paid content sponsored by Digital Ally.
By Police1 Staff
As body-worn cameras become more widespread, law enforcement agencies will have to figure out how to efficiently and cost-effectively sort, store and secure video evidence for investigative and court purposes.
To help, here are five important tips to keep in mind that will ensure your video management system is rock solid.
Tip 1: Automating body cameras can help you avoid personal liability and distractions
An agency first must determine when officers turn on their body cameras. This includes whether or not to record video constantly.
While ensuring a comprehensive capture of all incidences, it’s not ideal to have body cameras recording constantly. For one, it will generate a massive amount of video data, which can significantly elevate hosting costs.
Plus, it isn’t always loved by the community. According to a U.S. Department of Justice industry report, requiring officers to record every encounter with the public may damage important police-community relationships.
Instead, officers should be able to exercise their judgment as to whether or not to record a conversation. This includes when to speak with crime victims or to witnesses who may be concerned about retaliation if they cooperate.
To address this issue, Digital Ally’s FirstVu HD body cameras have automatic triggering, pre-event and other features for selective recording, when working in conjunction with VuLink.
Tip 2: Without proper storage in place video evidence can be lost or stolen
Police body camera video needs to be treated just like any other evidence used during investigations and for court cases, so it is important to determine upfront what types of videos need to be stored.
Having a solid handle on available video evidence helps law enforcement agencies assist the courts by determining which type of video data can be used during criminal cases. For example, U.S. state’s attorneys have started encouraging police departments to use body cameras to capture more reliable evidence for court, particularly in matters like domestic violence cases that can be difficult to prosecute.
The video can then be tagged appropriately and stored for later retrieval using video management software, such as from Digital Ally's VuVault, which automatically retains videos of different types of events for specific lengths of time or automatically archives and/or deletes them after set time periods. The software can be run on any Windows compatible computer with Windows 7 Pro or newer Windows OS.
Tip 3: Having a relationship with courts will help you develop a timeline for how long to keep video evidence
Video can be used long after an incident is over, so it is essential agencies develop a data retention policy that includes a timeline for keeping evidence as part of their overall data management strategy.
It may be months or even years until the evidence is needed, so having an established relationship with the courts helps determine how long it must be retained. The courts will be able to provide detailed advice on how long to keep evidence based on their particular jurisdiction.
They should also be able to advise on how to manage your community’s perception about holding on to video evidence, as the longer recorded videos are retained, the longer they are subject to public disclosure.
Tip 4: Without reporting capabilities, important details about the incident can get lost
Being able to account for video evidence is essential if you want to help investigators and criminal prosecutors use video captured by an officer during a case.
That’s why it is important to invest in video management software that can keep track of video files and provide easy means for searching through an archive using a variety of filters. For example, the ability to search and retrieve by incident can help prosecutors track down an officer who was at an incident to build a case.
Digital Ally’s software offers customizable reports through a user-friendly GUI. The software can generate reports such as: Video Details (about recordings), Video Summaries (synopsis of recordings), Device Activities (event and trigger counts), Device Exceptions (devices that have not uploaded), Device Histories (specific video system's recordings), Operators (specific driver's recordings), Recording Triggers (specific trigger's recordings), Chain of Custody (activity logs), or customized fields.
Tip 5: Whether you want local or cloud storage, deciding ahead of time puts you ahead of the game
Most departments store body camera video on an in-house server (managed internally) or an online cloud database (managed by a third-party vendor).
While in-house is a reliable solution, storing physical files and hiring personnel to manage it costs money.
In comparison, cloud-based storage can provide redundancy at potentially lower costs and reduce the amount of physical hardware in a building. Storage is available as needed with virtually unlimited capacity, but it does require careful management of usage levels to avoid ballooning costs.
Digital Ally has cloud solutions for law enforcement that lets users easily store, share, review and access secure and encrypted video evidence 24-hours-a-day.
There are many considerations when initiating a body camera program, but by observing these five tips you’ll have the right foundation in place.