Since the concept of body-worn cameras debuted in the late 1990s, mobile video has become an effective — some say essential — tool for law enforcement, the judicial system and the public interest, especially here in the US Initially, video footage captured from early body-worn cameras was considered just another piece of evidence. Today, many prosecutors and judges consider video evidence a requirement in criminal and civil cases. Video footage captured from body-worn and in-vehicle camera systems has also proven to be an effective aid for training and evaluating personnel performance.
Other benefits include liability protection and expedited dispute resolution, which positively impacts both law enforcement professionals and the citizens they serve and protect. The prominent role of video evidence in law enforcement and the judicial process has increased awareness of the technology, driving increased interest in mobile video recording as a new component of mainstream professional security applications.
Advancements in image capture and processing technologies are also driving new and expanded applications for mobile video. No longer considered stand-alone imaging devices, body-worn and in-vehicle cameras are at the front end of comprehensive mobile video systems integrated with powerful digital evidence software. These integrated solutions help law enforcement and professional security personnel manage live events, forensic investigations and court proceedings more effectively by enabling them to document, categorize and correlate events of interest with precision and integrity.
Like traditional video security and surveillance solutions, mobile video is also benefitting from intelligent analytics that increase situational awareness and overall security while decreasing operational expenses. These software enhancements automate labor-intensive processes, such as manually categorizing video evidence and editing volumes of recorded video footage, enabling personnel to focus on events of significance and providing other critical services.
Public relations and perception are also important factors behind the drive to include mobile video as part of professional security applications. Mobile video adds indisputable accountability to individuals on both sides of the camera in a wide variety of situations. Using the flexibility of mobile video can help build trust with the public, employees, customers and visitors, creating better environments for work, education, healthcare, commerce and entertainment.
Next-gen mobile video system solutions
Today’s advanced mobile video systems are comprised of several main components to capture and process video and audio evidence. The four key system components include: body-worn cameras, in-vehicle video systems, unified digital evidence software and intelligent analytics, such as facial redaction to protect personal privacy. Although there are many variations of these products available on the market, few are built for integrated systems operations on an “open” platform. As a result, it’s critical to understand the nuances of different offerings within each product category, including features and cost. Here’s a quick overview of what to look for:
Body-Worn Cameras were created to assist law enforcement and professional security personnel, as well as the populations they serve and protect. The best body-worn cameras deliver HD image quality from compact devices designed to take the punishment of everyday use and abuse. They also need to be easy to activate or automated to activate in response to specific signals. Law enforcement officers and security guards are not technicians and they shouldn’t need to worry about operating cameras during events which can develop and escalate very quickly.
The units should be easy to handle and mount, with fast initiation of recording from multiple possible inputs and minimal distraction to the officer. Best-of-breed solutions offer long-lasting, swappable batteries which can support operation over extended shifts. The cameras themselves must operate in various weather conditions, including rain, high humidity and heat. Additionally, a body-worn camera solution should seamlessly integrate with all other related system components, namely in-vehicle recording and digital evidence management systems.
In-Vehicle Camera Systems excel at documenting encounters in the field from the vantage point of the vehicle on the scene. Obtaining the necessary evidence depends on the system’s ability to capture as much of a 360-degree field of view as possible in HD video without distortion and save it to high-capacity storage. Because security personnel in the field need to apply undivided focus on the situation at hand, the in-vehicle camera system should automatically initiate recording using a range of triggers, including vehicle speed, light-bar/siren status, G-forces, doors opening or weapons lock releases.
These mobile systems also need to be built to rugged standards like MIL-STD-810H to resist shock, vibration, extreme temperatures, dust, moisture and other harsh conditions encountered in vehicles. It is well worth the investment to select an in-vehicle camera system that delivers the best in performance and reliability to ensure it works when you need it most — not just under ideal conditions and circumstances.
Unified Digital Evidence Software accommodates the large amount of video and audio data acquired by body-worn cameras and in-car systems and keeps the files organized and easily accessible. The software should support an efficient workflow for the users along with extensive documentation and secure access for authorized individuals. This must be paired with effective data encryption and other features that ensure data integrity and full compliance chain-of-custody requirements where applicable.
Advanced unified digital evidence solutions are available to store all video and audio data on premises, in the cloud, or in any combination depending on the user’s budget, needs and preferences. More than just video and audio recorders, these multi-sensor devices capture and document a complete picture of every event, including relevant GPS data, vehicle speed, G-forces, status of critical systems (brakes, lights, siren, weapon lock), so the ability to integrate with other equipment is essential.
Redaction Software can obscure faces, license plates or other parts of a video recording that need to be excluded in order to comply with the law, adhere to departmental policy or protect innocent bystanders who were recorded unintentionally. This effect has become widely familiar, often shown on the evening news when the police are searching for a known suspect or a missing person. Other faces or items caught on these videos are rendered unrecognizable, concealing the identities of those who aren’t the focus of the case.
By combining sophisticated artificial intelligence and machine learning, video redaction software can automate some of the manual processes of uploading, storing, searching, editing and sharing video content, saving tremendous amounts of personnel time and resources. Advanced video redaction software should work with video footage in the standard MPEG4 format. There should be options for working with video from other common devices, such as fixed surveillance video (many brands and file types), consumer cameras, iOS and Android systems.
The mobile to fixed video connection
In the past, the presence or threat of a gun was used as an easy line of demarcation when evaluating the need for mobile video. However, the potential use of non-lethal weapons and other methods of enforcement or inducement can carry serious liabilities along with expectations of transparency, data integrity, chain of custody, etc. Even basic customer service operations may benefit from the unique vantage point offered by in-vehicle or body-worn cameras. As a result, professional security operations can benefit from wide-angle coverage, evidence management capabilities, cost efficiencies and liability protections that mobile and fixed video system technologies combine to deliver.
Today’s open platform, fixed video surveillance, access control and security systems are only enhanced by incorporating mobile systems. True integration of mobile and fixed systems can provide law enforcement, security professionals and other industries with far-reaching benefits for a wide range of public safety, private security and business intelligence applications.
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This article was originally published in the July edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.