Monday, February 14, 2011

Caught on Camera

Caught on Camera: the clear capture of officer murders is a grim reality of this powerful technology - from Evidence Technology Magazine.

"The ubiquity of mobile video recording systems in police vehicles illustrates a grim statistic: on-duty deaths were up last year by a staggering 26 percent, highlighted by an equal rise in the number of officers murdered by gunfire: 49 in 2009 and 61 in 2010. Early 2011 statistics are even more frightening, with 11 officers shot in a single 24-hour period in January. The same number of officers were killed by gunfire last month alone, doubling the national trend of each of the previous years of the last decade…and an increasing number of officer deaths have been caught on dashboard cameras.

Videos depicting the last moments of an officer’s life are always shocking, explicit, and immensely disturbing, yet they are often the only voices that officers have when they can no longer speak for themselves. Partially for that reason, mobile video recording is a “technology that is here to stay,” according to 94 percent of law-enforcement professionals who responded to a recent national survey on in-car video systems.

Underscoring the value of in-car video technology, Georgia State Patrol (GSP) Major Mark McDonough announced at a press conference that “…a picture is worth a thousand words,” referring to images that he believed irrefutably identified the man who shot and killed GSP Corporal Chad LeCroy on December 27. The images were recorded to LeCroy’s mobile video recorder and included pictures of the killer actually leaving the scene in the officer’s car.

The significance of mobile video as evidence during police murder investigations played out tragically multiple times across the United States in 2010. In Tampa, Florida, Officers David Curtis and Jeffery Kocab were murdered by a man during a traffic stop on June 29. Kocab’s video system recorded the events leading up to the killings, which included audio of the killer, and of a woman in his company, providing identification information during the stop. The video proved to be the key to the suspects’ later arrest. In another double homicide of police last year, West Memphis (Arkansas) Police Department Sergeant Brandon Paudert and Officer Bill Evan were shot and killed on May 20. Evan’s in-car video showed a 16 year old exiting the passenger side of a vehicle while shooting at the officers with an AK-47. “Since the officers are no longer available, I have to let the dash-cam video speak for itself,” stated Prosecutor Mike Walden.

Despite the growing volume of in-car video images produced during police homicide cases, the images themselves might not always be good enough to act as the “silent witness”, a description often used to suggest that the video quality is adequate for identification and reliability.

“Too often, we’re receiving video evidence in these kinds of cases where the quality of the video is so poor that identification is impossible. Then, who speaks for the officer?” asked Alan Salmon of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation’s Forensic Video Unit. Salmon is also the President of the Law Enforcement & Emergency Services Video Association (LEVA), a professional organization that trains police video analysts from around the country. He said his organization’s members are frustrated with the quality of much of the in-car video they are asked to process, analyze, and eventually take to court ..."

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