A month before the UK’s Home Office mandate for digital evidence compliance comes in to effect next April, London’s Metropolitan Police force (MET) will have completed its full roll-out of body worn cameras to all 30,000+ MET police officers. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, announced the plans, following the completion of a successful trial which began in May 2014.
Body worn cameras have become an increasingly common sight in recent years, as the price for these devices has fallen and the quality has improved with 4k resolution. Even security teams at football stadiums around the UK have embraced the technology to help document incidents involving over-zealous fans who engage in hooliganism, anti-social behavior and crime. Traditional surveillance cameras can’t ‘see’ everything, so the high definition video and audio recordings from body worn cameras can provide invaluable evidence to improve conviction rates.
Let’s face it – digital media is not new to policing. Eye witnesses have captured video on cell phones for years. And CCTV is everywhere. But body-worn cameras have the potential to be the digital evidence tipping point. With the vast number of ‘boots on the ground’ now being outfitted with body-worn devices, and many more to come, the quantity of body-worn camera video generated daily may soon outpace police forces’ ability to effectively manage it.
The mistaken perception I often encounter is that body-worn video is just another ‘silo’ of information that needs to be stored somewhere in isolation. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you consider how incidents evolve, all sorts of digital evidence can come into play – body-worn camera video, surveillance video, cell phone video, in-car video, 999 calls and radio recordings, to name a few. Managing body-worn camera video as just another data silo will inevitably slow down the investigative and disclosure management process, as investigators are burdened with trawling through terabytes upon terabytes of body-worn video and then matching it up with other digital evidence to connect the dots.
One approach that is generating a lot of excitement is the ability to create digital case files that include all data relevant to an investigation – from Computer Aided Dispatch Systems, Records Management Systems, in-car video systems, city and privately-owned video surveillance systems, interview room systems, crime scene photo databases and of course body-worn camera video and audio. This can be easily accomplished by layering a digital evidence management solution on top of various data capture systems. All of the digital evidence relating to an investigation can be synchronized into a timeline and securely stored and managed, and distributed to the Crown Prosecution Services and courts on demand.