A lot of focus in the media goes to the capture of video from body-worn cameras (BWC) and in-car cameras by public safety professionals. Not nearly as much attention is given to how videos are archived. Unlike personal video, video public safety professionals capture is evidence and needs to be handled as such. Even if you are not in Law Enforcement, your video might become crucial to a case. Sometimes overlooked, video is also an invaluable training tool that lets others experience unique incidents in a first-person view. Here are 5 factors that must be considered when creating your video archiving program:
Cost. Videos use a lot of data, and your budget will depend on the volume of data and the length of time you need to keep it. Even the smallest agencies can quickly generate gigabytes on top of gigabytes of video. To store this much data, you must decide which storage solutions are right for your circumstance. Your choices are internal servers, cloud-based solutions, third party providers or any mix of the three. To top it off, you also need to decide if you want to have dedicated IT personnel to manage your program.
- Download Procedures. Just as with physical evidence, you must organize and manage your videos’ chain of custody. This includes when videos must be downloaded from cameras, who downloads them and what video information needs captured. Video information can include basic information (date, time, etc.), summaries of the recording, recording details (like incident and recording counts), camera recording histories, user recording history and GPS readings. It might also include information about users and cameras that have NOT downloaded recordings to make sure procedures are being followed.
- Security. The integrity of your video archive program directly impacts the confidentiality of informants and citizens, the effectiveness of your evidence and, ultimately, the success of subsequent criminal or misfeasance cases. Policies need to be instituted governing the prohibition of data tampering, copying and editing prior to downloading. You must also clearly state who is authorized to access data and make sure an auditing process is in place.
- Retrieval. Hours of video evidence is useless if no one can find it. The availability of evidence is often dictated by your locality so you should consult your local prosecutors and legal advisors to see what your time windows are. You need to know both 1) the window of time evidence must be made available and 2) how long evidence must be kept. Since the window of time to provide evidence can be a very tight, you need an efficient system in place that prevents an archivist from watching weeks of videos to pinpoint evidence for every case. And since evidence must sometimes be held for several years, adequate space and reliable backup systems are necessary.
- Team Development. BWCs allow agencies to have an entire library of training scenarios to highlight concerns that might be unique their teams. They also allow agencies to share incidents with other agencies to address more wide-spread problems. New recruits can benefit from regular critiques of their initial calls, and veteran team members can quickly gain knowledge without having to first encountering problem circumstances themselves. Preparing videos to protect the confidentiality of the people in the videos and to ensure there is no legal implications might take some effort, but the rewards can well be worth it.
For more information, the FBI has created the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) security policy to help agencies effectively tackle video archiving. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has covered this topic extensively with a model policy as well as a concepts and issues paper. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) within the U.S. Department of Justice has created the Body-Worn Camera Toolkit to provide valuable resources to agencies.