Monday, July 27, 2015

Prof. Alexander "Sandy" Allan

In the years since my book was published, people have asked about the dedication page. Who is "Sandy?" Professor Alexander "Sandy" Allan was my great uncle, my inspiration, and the guide to my academic and professional life. He passed away on July 10th.

Sandy Allan
October 21, 1926 - July 10, 2015

Sandy passed away at home, aged 88. Sandy was predeceased by his beloved wife, Marguerite (Gunton). He was a much-loved father to Cynthia Norrie (Alastair) and to Paul (Maggie) and a devoted grandfather to Elizabeth, Kate and Michael Allan. He was also the last survivor of all his siblings, Jean ("Bet"), Jim and Jack. Sandy was a passionate engineer. His career began with the Defence Research Board of Canada in 1950. In 1958 he became a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Toronto and for the next 29 years he inspired many students with his hands-on, practical approach to education. In 1970 Sandy was retained as a consultant in a high profile motor vehicle accident lawsuit that ultimately lead to a successful second career as a consulting engineer. He later founded Alexander Allan Engineering Services where he became an acknowledged expert in the reconstruction of motor-vehicular accidents. Sandy was born and raised in the east end of Toronto where he attended Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute. He earned both an undergraduate degree (1949) and a Masters Degree (1953) in Applied Science at the University of Toronto. Always generous with his time and many talents, Sandy frequently found himself called upon by both family and friends to build something or to fix something which he always did with focus and determination. Sandy had a particular talent for photography and carpentry. Evidence of his wood-working skill can be found in the homes of family and friends throughout Ontario. While he enjoyed a long retirement, Sandy suffered a stroke in 2004 and had been confined to a wheelchair for nearly 12 years; however, he continued to pursue an active life of the mind and pursued interests in science, technology and business.

My first recollection of "Uncle Sandy" was when I was five years old. He was in town to visit us and my grandmother, his older sister. It was 1976 and Toronto had just acquired an MLB franchise. He came with a bunch of Blue Jays swag; hats, jerseys, pennants, etc. Living in SoCal, we became instant Blue Jays fans. I still am.

He told stories about his travels and his work. He was, at the time, about how old I am now. I remembered thinking, people pay him to do the things he loves to do, pay him to travel around and have a great time doing it. Wow. This is what I want to do. And so, through a long and circuitous path, I set about to do it.

Words can not adequately express the feelings that result from the loss of one such as my Uncle Sandy, and I've been at a loss for words as of late.

Soft and safe to thee, be thy resting-place!
Bright and glorious be thy rising from it!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Spready joins Amped Software

Amped Software just announced that David Spreadborough, aka Spready, has joined their team.

Awesome news. Congrats to Spready and to Amped Software.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Discovery issues with certain kinds of images

An intersting question came in regarding a problem often encountered by LE folks processing / redacting CP images for court. Obviously, you don't want to process them one at a time when there are hundreds of images to redact. The question was tossed around and here's a simple way to do it in FIVE courtesy of our friends at Amped Software.

  • Open a sequence of images (Load>Sequence Loader)
  • Redact by blackening the whole image (Presentation>Hide Selection), then choose blacken at 100%, then change the shape from round to square, then on the “selection” tab, click and then choose “whole image” from the dropdown.
  • Export the redacted images as another sequence (Write>Sequence Writer). Change the file name / location to be what you need it to be.
  • Generate your report (Project>Generate Report.
I know not many folks work with CP. I hope this helps.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Quality issues with body worn cameras

Amped Software's latest blog post features an article on the various quality issues associated with body worn camera recordings, and how their software can be used to fix them all.

Check it out here.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Saved footage from Freddie Gray arrest and unrest limiting city's camera capacity

This just in from the Baltimore Sun: "A decision to save surveillance video of Freddie Gray's arrest and the subsequent unrest in the city has significantly reduced the storage capacity of some cameras on Baltimore's closed-circuit system — shrinking the window during which police may flag footage to help with criminal investigations.

Capacity on some of the city's 700 CitiWatch cameras has been reduced from 28 days to three, meaning footage of any illegal activity is wiped clean after 72 hours unless a police officer shows up to save it, city officials said. The capacity of other cameras has been reduced to a lesser degree.

City attorneys made the decision to save the footage because it could prove critical in future litigation related to Gray's death or the crimes committed during the unrest, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.

Spokesman Kevin Harris said the intention was "to make sure that all records pertaining to the entirety of the Freddie Gray incident are preserved."

Harris said officials examined all options to avoid interfering with CCTV surveillance or violating regulatory requirements and decided that cutting the capacity on some cameras was the best choice.

Other options, such as copying the information onto external hard drives or saving to a cloud-based storage system, were not feasible, he said, in part because they would involve temporarily stopping the cameras from recording, "potentially leaving a blind spot in the crime fight."

Harris said the city plans to spend $140,000 on new hardware for long-term storage. The city does not know when the new hardware will be in place, he said, but Rawlings-Blake "has ordered that all red tape be cut to expedite the process as quickly as possible."

But, as Grant Fredericks points out, "it's important to save footage from incidents such as Gray's arrest and the riots.

"That now becomes critical data," Fredericks said. "All of it is evidence, and the authorities should secure all of that information.

"If anyone is charged in the future and that evidence is allowed to be erased, then the defendant can argue that exculpatory evidence was lost. And if that is lost, because the managers of the system or the government that is maintaining the system failed to retain the evidence, then the defendant can argue that the prosecution is prejudicial because they allowed the evidence to be erased."

"Fredericks said retaining even several thousand hours of footage should not disrupt the capacity of a modern city's CCTV system. Storage — on external hard drives or otherwise — has become cheap, he said, and should be in place before the need becomes critical.

City Councilman Brandon Scott, vice chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said questions about storage capacity have come up during the debate over body cameras for police. He said the CCTV storage shortage shows a need to modernize Baltimore's digital capabilities.

"We don't want to have an incident where we need the data but we don't have it because we had nowhere to store it," he said. "That creates an emergency situation."

Read more on this article by clicking here.

ed. note: As regards footage from DVRs in general, the courts have ruled that it doesn't harm the defense if there's exculpatory footage out there and the police fail to seize it. They only get dinged when they have it and lose it. As Grant points out, these are police owned DVRs, thus they have a duty to protect and preserve this potentially exculpatory evidence.