5 strategies to help in writing correct reviews and conducting thorough investigations

October 11, 2023by Naomi Cramer

By David Blake, Ph.D., and Robert “Bob” McFarlane

“Video’s probative worth rests primarily within the perceptual experiences of its perceivers. Thus, to start growing an evidence-based methodology for analyzing the probative worth of video proof, we should examine the potential for error inherent in perceivers’ viewing and interpretations of video, in addition to the extent of their consciousness of any such errors.”  Granot et al., Within the eyes of the regulation: Notion versus actuality in value determinations of video proof

Earlier this 12 months, a police officer was dealing with manslaughter costs with a most jail time period of 20 years. The concerned officer had pursued a suspected drunk driver and – on the termination level – approached the passenger aspect of the automobile together with his weapon drawn. The suspect was non-compliant and tried to flee, ensuing within the officer opening the passenger door and ordering the suspect handy over his keys.

Showing to conform, the suspect leaned into the passenger seat and, together with his proper hand, reached towards the officer to cross him the ignition key. The important thing was connected to a 37” lengthy shoestring lanyard tied in a circle on the ends. The officer grabbed the important thing together with his left hand whereas sustaining a retention place together with his handgun. Unexpectedly, the suspect pulled again on the lanyard, and a brief tug-of-war ensued. In the course of the battle over the lanyard, the officer’s firearm discharged hanging the suspect within the head. The officer said that he didn’t pull the set off deliberately and didn’t know what precipitated the weapon to discharge.

The incident was captured on the officer’s body-worn digicam (BWC). Movement blur, low mild and altering angles created a video recording that was troublesome to interpret. The lead legal investigator – who had no coaching or expertise in working with digital video proof or investigating officer-involved shootings – didn’t have an in-house capability to conduct a frame-by-frame evaluation of the video. The video was despatched to the state’s forensic laboratory for enhancement and was in the end despatched again within the type of particular person frames however included no evaluation or interpretation of the video’s content material. The untrained investigator carried out his personal evaluation and concluded the officer’s finger was on the set off throughout the whole incident, leading to a negligent discharge. The prosecutor’s workplace accepted this evaluation and filed costs of involuntary manslaughter.

The officer’s defense counsel retained each authors of this text with Mr. McFarlane’s forensic video evaluation and testimony considerably impacting the result. At trial, Mr. McFarlane introduced particular person frames from the video displaying the officer’s finger was listed at varied occasions main as much as the capturing and that the set off guard was clear slightly over a second previous to the pistol discharging. The strongest impression got here from Mr. McFarlane’s presentation of particular person frames displaying the suspect’s left hand, in a swiping movement, coming into contact with the officer’s firearm a split-second earlier than the gun discharged. This proof was probably a compelling issue because the jury returned a not-guilty verdict in about an hour.

We consider the costs on this case had been based on a defective interpretation and evaluation of the video proof. The intent of this text is to hopefully forestall the same state of affairs from occurring sooner or later. 

Understanding digital media proof

Traditionally, video recordings consisted of a collection of pictures strung collectively on movie. Every {photograph} was a real seize of the visible scene and remained in its authentic type when projected upon a display. Developments in know-how modified that, relegating hard-copy pictures to the previous. As a substitute, digital video exists electronically as a collection of ones and zeroes that depend upon complicated algorithms to encode, decode and current visible data. The digital video algorithms decide the standard of video proof. The next narrative introduces two elements (compression and body charges) that may affect the standard of visible data contained in a digital video recording.

Compression: Digital recording units virtually at all times compress video, each spatially (inside every body) and temporally (between the frames) to save lots of reminiscence space for storing.

With temporal compression, an encoding machine will try to predict change from one body to the following. Visible knowledge decided to be unchanging inside a collection of frames will not be re-recorded however merely reproduced from different frames (see I-P-B Frames).

Consider video compression as eliminating redundancies and specializing in saving new data over a time period. The quantity of compression straight influences the standard of the video and should lead to some data not being captured or introduced with inadequate element to precisely decide what occurred. Compression “artifacts” could cause visible data to be degraded/distorted in ways in which impression visible interpretation. Determine 1 exhibits an instance of compression artifacts.

Figure 1. Compression

Determine 1. Compression (Supply: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdEDnywSExI (permission granted by creator))

Body charges: The body fee determines what number of particular person nonetheless pictures are captured over a time period, often inside every second.  Decreased body charges is usually a methodology for lowering file dimension, however may considerably scale back the quantity of visible data captured, affecting the looks of motion.  As an example, a surveillance digicam capturing 1 to five frames per second won’t present a easy visible circulate of motion, could not seize vital split-second data (i.e., a punch), and should lead to a skewed interpretation of motion (Body Fee).

Suggestions for amassing, dealing with and analyzing digital video proof

At the moment’s digital video proof typically consists of recordings from BWCs, surveillance cameras and mobile telephones. These sources of digital video are a worthwhile useful resource for investigating crimes, use of power by police, and different types of misconduct or human error. Sadly, many officers and investigators could not obtain coaching on amassing, dealing with, or analyzing digital video proof. This lack of awareness can result in authorized challenges concerning the validity and authenticity of the proof in addition to improper interpretations of digitally produced visible data.

Due to this fact, the gathering of digital media proof (DME) ought to minimally embody details about the seize machine and its settings in addition to the placement of the digicam(s) and detailed data on how the proof was collected. Attributable to most of at present’s DME present in a digital format that may be simply altered, strategies for guaranteeing the integrity of the unique recording or verifying a direct authentic copy is a should. 

The Regulation Enforcement and Emergency Providers Video Affiliation Worldwide (LEVA) recommends the next steps:

1. Confirm the integrity

Integrity verification is a technique of confirming that the information introduced is full and unaltered because the acquisition. Basically, we need to know that we’re working with the unique unaltered video. This may be completed by assigning the newly acquired video file a HASH worth. A HASH worth is a singular identifier assigned through an algorithm. A comparability of HASH values between two variations of video proof will present a distinction if even one pixel has been modified. Nevertheless, in some instances, figuring out whether or not a video has been altered could require knowledgeable help. A free and easy-to-use HASH software (e.g., QuickHash) is out there on-line.

2. Authentication

Like every other proof, video and audio proof have to be proven to be a good and correct illustration of what somebody purports it to show. For instance, does a video recording precisely present what occurred in entrance of the digicam? Does compression, side ratio, the body fee, or different elements restrict the evidentiary worth of the video? Officers and investigators ought to have some concept of what they’re working with to make sure they precisely interpret the video. There may be additionally free and easy-to-use software program accessible, similar to MediaInfo, that may help in figuring out such details about a video.

3. Evaluation and interpretation

The perceived evidentiary energy of digital media proof is based on the assumption that such proof supplies an goal and unbiased illustration of actuality. Some frequent statements typically related to video proof embody: “The BWC supplies the angle of the officer,” “The video proof speaks for itself,” and, “The video doesn’t lie.”  The fact is {that a} BWC video supplies a visible perspective from the officer’s location however doesn’t seize the complete perspective or notion of the officer. Additionally, video can’t “communicate,” and the reality could also be restricted by the inherent capabilities of the recording machine(s) in addition to the subjective and probably error-prone interpretation of viewers. That is well-known in Hollywood as movies and tv exhibits use strategies to control the eye and notion of viewers (see: Lights, Digital camera, Notion: How Motion pictures Mould your Thoughts).

When conducting opinions of use-of-force movies, the investigator ought to think about the impression of “perspective bias,” i.e., the angle and notion skilled when watching a video of an incident could also be considerably totally different than the angle of the concerned events. Additionally, human limitations related to visible consideration and dealing reminiscence may end up in the precise members experiencing perceptual failures to see, i.e., inattentional blindness or change blindness. Such perceptual failures may also be skilled by investigators or different viewers of video.

Attributable to human limitations and the potential to overlook or misread visible data, think about viewing the video at each full pace and body by body whereas utilizing a quadrant strategy. For instance, specializing in the higher right-hand nook of the video display whereas transferring ahead and backward via frames can help in figuring out objects or actions that could be missed at full-speed playback. After a radical assessment of 1 quadrant is full, the method must be repeated within the different quadrants. The quadrant assessment course of could take a big period of time, however contemplating the excessive stakes related to use-of-force investigations, a failure to competently and completely assessment the video proof borders upon investigatory negligence.

Many detectives or directors who could also be concerned within the interpretation or evaluation of force-related video proof aren’t consultants on the usage of power. Due to this fact, we advise an issue knowledgeable be allowed to help investigators in figuring out essential points of the video in addition to compliance or divergence from skilled ways/strategies.

In some instances, a digicam could not seize all the data reported by a citizen or an officer. Examples are sometimes present in floor fights the place the lens of the digicam is obstructed for a number of seconds. A punch, a kick, and even the retrieval/dropping of a firearm can happen in lower than 250 milliseconds. If the digicam lens is obscured or the body fee is extraordinarily low, the recording could not present these actions or could not present them precisely.

Officers and investigators must be conscious that divergence between what an officer or citizen reported as occurring – however not recorded on the video – will not be de facto proof of deceit. We advise officers establish the place their perceptions/reminiscence diverge from the video. Subsequently, investigators ought to try to rectify the variations or precisely report obstructions or picture blur that could be the trigger for the variations.

Lastly, we regularly hear that companies aren’t able to reviewing video footage body by body. By no means concern! An answer within the type of free or cheap software program offering this functionality is out there (see SMPLAYER).

4. Video work product

If doable, investigators ought to think about together with video work merchandise inside their investigatory information. This can be supplied internally by skilled personnel or externally by crime laboratories or forensic video consultants. Minimally, the video must be encoded with body numbers for correct reference. Extra work merchandise could embody particular person sequences of the video, slow-motion video, enlargement, and body extractions.  We urge warning when enhancing video, since rising solely the brightness in movies captured at night time could misrepresent the visibility of things on the time of recording.

5. Reporting video/audio proof

Officers and investigators ought to take a structured strategy to reporting the audio-visual data from digital media. We advise minimally reporting the details about the recording machine and digicam, the strategies used to seize the information, a HASH of the unique video, and background details about the video, such because the decision, body fee and period.

When reporting on the evaluation and interpretation of the content material of the video, we advise a structured methodology similar to that introduced in Desk 1. Desk 1 is an instance of a chronology of occasions and will embody timestamps or body numbers (most well-liked when accessible) and a corresponding description of the audio and visible data.

One vital difficulty to recollect when reporting an analytic chronology of occasions is the associated body fee. For instance, we regularly see the embedded timer (i.e., 23:07:35) used as a reference when stopping a video to debate a focal point. You will need to do not forget that 30 or extra particular person pictures (frames) could exist inside a second. The focal point could change drastically over the course of some frames, however nonetheless be inside the identical second on the embedded timer. For this reason the investigator ought to observe the particular body variety of the video when referring to a nonetheless picture or collection of pictures.


In our expertise, digital media proof will not be at all times collected, managed, or analyzed persistently with conventional bodily proof. Investigators would by no means get well a firearm with out taking a photograph and noting the make, mannequin, serial quantity and caliber. If despatched to the lab, the firearm would probably be examined for performance and a documented chain of custody ensures evidentiary integrity. Nevertheless, many companies appear to deal with digital video and audio proof in a different way.

Stakeholders must be involved with the dealing with and presentation of digital proof as a result of its potential impression on civil and legal litigation. Officers and investigators must be skilled and guided by requirements when amassing, transferring, and dealing with digital media proof, as it’s typically considered as highly effective proof.

There are numerous academic assets, such because the Scientific Working Group on Digital Proof, and certifying and coaching organizations such because the Regulation Enforcement and Emergency Providers Video Affiliation Worldwide (LEVA), that may assist be certain your company is presenting the very best proof to directors, prosecutors and the courts. Failure to take action could have vital unfavorable ramifications for and your group.

Particular due to Jeff Martin, JD, CFVT (DSI Consulting) and Jamie Borden (Important Incident Assessment) for peer-reviewing and modifying this text.

Concerning the authors

David Blake, Ph.D., is a retired California peace officer and a court-qualified knowledgeable on human elements psychology, video, and the usage of power. Dave is a LEVA licensed Forensic Video Technician and has vital expertise instructing the usage of power and human elements psychology to regulation enforcement officers throughout the nation. Dave has undergraduate and graduate levels in legal justice and psychology with a analysis deal with police use of lethal power. He has authored over 40 skilled and peer-reviewed journal articles on the applying of human elements psychology to first responders and their operational environments. He owns Blake Consulting and Coaching and may be reached at [email protected]

Robert “Bob” McFarlane is a forensic video analyst who has testified in state and federal courts throughout the nation. Bob has 12 years of expertise as an Oakland, California, police officer working assignments inclusive of patrol, road narcotics enforcement, vice narcotics, tactical staff, and the beat well being unit accountable for orchestrating civil actions in opposition to drug homes. Bob was an investigator with rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver, PC, specializing in complicated issues, together with critical legal instances, high-profile disciplinary actions, and litigation help. Bob is a veteran of the US Air Pressure. He may be reached at [email protected].

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by Naomi Cramer

Auckland Lawyer for FIRST TIME Offenders Seeking to Avoid a Conviction. Family Law Expert in Child Care Custody Disputes. If you are facing Court Naomi will make you feel comfortable every step of the way.  As a consummate professional your goals become hers, with customer service as our top priority. It has always been Naomi’s philosophy to approach whatever you do in life with bold enthusiasm and pure dedication. Complement this with her genuine passion for equal justice and rights for all and you have the formula for success. Naomi is a highly skilled Court lawyer having practised for more than 20 years. She serves the greater Auckland region and can travel to represent clients throughout NZ With extensive experience, an analytical eye for detail, and continuing legal education Naomi’s skill set will maximise your legal rights whilst offering a holistic approach that best fits your individual needs. This is further enhanced with her high level of support and understanding. Naomi will redefine what you expect from your legal professional, facilitating a seamless experience from start to finish.   Her approachable and adaptive demeanor serves her well when working with the diverse cultures that make up the Auckland region. Blend her open and honest approach to her transparent process and you can see why she routinely delivers the satisfying results her clients deserve. If you want to maximise your legal rights, we recommend you book an appointment with Naomi today so she can detail the steps for you to achieve your goals. 

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