CBS2 and KCAL9 Interviews NCAVF on the Police Shooting of a Homeless Man on Skid Row

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NCAVF Notowitz interview still image, KCAL 9 KCBS 2 3-2-2015 re LAPD shoot homeless man

NCAVF is Interviewed by CBS2 and KCAL9 After Police Shooting of a Homeless Man on Skid Row

On Sunday, March 1, LAPD Officers shot and killed a man in the “Skid Row” area of downtown Los Angeles. The case has garnered a lot of media attention as the entire incident was caught not only on nearby surveillance cameras, but it was also filmed in high definition using an iPhone and by officer worn video cameras. The police shooting of a homeless man was only after they claim the suspect grabbed for one of the officer’s weapons. NCAVF was interviewed by CBS2 and KCAL 9’s Andrea Fujii about what we saw in the clip. See the interview here.

The copy of the footage we received was downloaded from YouTube, so it had been compressed and the quality as high a the original. Nonetheless, we were able to better reveal much of what happened between officers and the suspect that day. Clearly showing what appears to be the suspect reaching for and grabbing an officer’s gun. Once we have the other video clips, including the security surveillance video and police body cams, we will be able to sync them all together to show a clear picture of the entire course of events.

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Bill to Make Police Body Cam Footage Private

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Police Body Cam

Bill To Make Police Body Cam Footage Private

In the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, dozens of police departments all over the country have reaffirmed their intentions to begin deploying officer worn body cameras. In fact Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, in December of 2014, committed to purchasing 7,000 body cams to outfit LAPD officers. But one issue that has yet to be adequately addressed is a lack of standardization with how to handle, store, and process all the footage that these cameras will record. Three Congressman in St. Paul, Minnesota have offered a possible solution: they’ve proposed a bill to make police body cam footage private.

With nearly 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies in existence within the US, there are well over 1,000,000 sworn police officers nationwide. As the use of police body cams increase, so will the audio and video evidence. This will create billions of terabytes of video and audio evidence. Proponents of the Minnesota bill suggest that making the footage secret is for privacy reasons. It is not uncommon for the footage officers collect to be of a very personal nature as they often respond to peoples homes where all forms of disarray can be captured: from folks under the influence to half-naked kids running around the living room, officers have seen it all. The events an officer may witness, say sponsors of this bill, should remain private (especially when recorded in the homes of citizens).

Representatives Tony Cornish, Brian Johnson, and Dan Schoen (Schoen is also an active police officer), are the authors of the bill. The three congressmen propose that only those recorded in the incident will have access to the footage. What’s more, the bill mandates that evidence that is not necessarily relevant to to a case be destroyed within 90 days; this will be regardless of whether or not the case remains open.

Opponents of the bill, however, indicate that destroying the evidence will undermine the very need for the body cams in the first place. With events like the shooting of Michael Brown, many in the public have desired to see more police oversight, with the body cams being a first step in that direction. Yet, there may be an inability to give this oversight if the body cam footage is made private. However, the footage being used for public oversight may be only conceptual, at best. Right now, Minnesota state “data laws” presume that footage captured by police body cams is available to the public, but this is sometimes not the case. Occasionally when folks request footage from law enforcement, they are told the footage no longer exists, which may make it difficult for attorneys or the general public to retrieve copies of the footage.

Despite legislation that is aimed at controlling the audio and video evidence, one thing is definitely clear: attorneys, law enforcement, and forensic experts all need to be prepared for the deluge of new evidence that will be available for their cases. Not only will it be crucial to know when and how to use this evidence, but they must also be aware that the laws governing the use and availability of this new evidence may affect their ability to gather or use it as well.


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Attorney’s Complete Understanding and Familiarity with the Video Evidence Wins Case

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Still from footage used as part of the video evidence, compliments of ABC7

Occupy Los Angeles Protest, Art Walk, July 12, 2012 Arrest of the Plaintiff by LAPD officers

Just this week, one of our clients got a victory on a civil case, stemming from the “Occupy Los Angeles” movement on July 12, 2012, and due to so much press attention at this Occupy LA protest, there were dozens of video, audio, web pages, and still images which captured aspects of evidence in this case. Finding, enhancing, and syncing the video evidence kept us working diligently. The jury deliberated less than two hours before returning a complete defense verdict. According to the defense attorney, the victory was in large part due to the extensive audio and video research, analysis, and enhancement work contributed by NCAVF. The attorney also said that before this case he had never fully realized how important it was to have a complete understanding and familiarity with the video evidence. The attorney noted it was this familiarity with the video evidence in court that was his lynchpin to winning the case.

So then how do attorney’s develop a complete understanding and familiarity with the video evidence? First, it is important to examine a problem we see all too often. In an attorney’s day to day bombardment of handling multiple cases, we’ve seen attorneys developing tunnel-vision — looking at only one approach to their case. This is especially true when evaluating audio or video evidence.  When we receive surveillance video evidence from an attorney or client, we are often given specific instructions by the attorney handling the case. For instance we are asked to get a clear face picture of the suspect in the video. Seeing the face of the suspect can certainly be important, but there are often other details, just as important, frequently overlooked by attorneys such as:

  • Metadata on the video (date/time stamping)
  • How it was recorded
  • Types of cameras and lenses used
  • Are there possibly better resolutions available
  • Are there other angles or sources available

As video forensics experts, we’re trained to look outside the box, at the periphery: what was going on minutes or even hours before or after the suspect appears in the video? What is in the suspect’s hands? How did those items get into his hands? Where was the suspect looking or walking just before, during, or after the incident? The answers can be crucial for a case.

In the civil case we just helped win, our client, the defendant’s attorney, told us that developing his familiarity with the video evidence was staggeringly important for helping the jury understand the facts of the case. The attorney remarked that developing this familiarity enabled him to point out the most important aspects of the video to the jury. Using this knowledge, he was also able to refute claims made by the opposing counsel’s witnesses.

Another aspect often overlooked by attorneys is the scope of modern digital software forensic capabilities. Our sophisticated 3D rendering software allows us to use photogrammetry to determine the height of a suspect captured on surveillance footage. Such a determination can be invaluable if the height of the suspect on the video and the height of the accused are not the same.

An additional forensic technique that is often unknown to attorneys, but used frequently by NCAVF in cases, is synchronization. This is the practice of taking multiple camera angles and audio recordings of the same event and creating a single playable video, giving a viewer a unified, synchronized, and clear piece of evidence. The jury is then able to see a complete picture of what is happening.

For instance, camera 1 may be a wide street view of an incident from a surveillance camera set up by the city. Camera 2, recorded from a local business, shows a clear view of a suspect as he walks on the sidewalk. Camera 3, from the security camera of another business, might show the suspect looking around suspiciously. The city’s wide view camera will show the general movements of the suspect, and the closer cameras make details apparent. Showing video and audio evidence in synchronization, a jury can be shown all the video evidence in a concise and compelling way that unifies the case and keeps their attention.

The advances in the high quality recording of security surveillance video evidence has allowed us to investigate alleged crimes and determine the sequence of events for incidents in ways that were not possible a few years ago. Analyzing, enhancing, and understanding video and audio evidence effectively, however, means knowing what to look for and what techniques are going to be the most advantageous for a particular case.

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Police Chase Leaves Cow Dead, Attorneys Prep For Bovine Clients

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Officer pursuing escaped cow during slow-speed chase

Officer pursuing escaped cow during slow-speed police chase

Attorneys should be on the lookout for a slew of new bovine clients.

Police Officers in Pocatello, Idaho shot and killed a 1,000 pound escaped cow last week. Allegedly, the cow had liberated herself from Anderson Custom Pack, a meat processing business at 3080 North Main Street in Pocatello. An employee stated that he was preparing to slaughter the animal when it bounded over a six foot tall fence, seeming with a desire to again taste freedom.

Eye witnesses called 911 as the at-large cow made its way through several neighborhoods while leading officers on a prolonged slow-speed police chase throughout the city. Some of the chase was even caught on amateur video. At this time NCAVF has not yet been contacted to evaluate or enhance the video footage.

It was shortly after her escape, that the cow began her rampage. In a desire to milk her new found freedom, the cow rammed two Pocatello Police vehicles, an animal control truck, and caused several traffic collisions. It then charged through a playground on Hawthorne Road as well as through residential neighborhoods adjacent to Hawthorne. It was at this point, fearing for the public’s safety, that police decided that lethal force was indeed warranted.

The order to fire was given. Having cornered the cow in the backyard of a residential home off of Quinn Road, one officer did manage to shoot the cow in the head. This, however, only seemed to solidify the resolve of the cow as she bolted past officers and continued to give chase.

The pursuit continued to weave around the residential streets with both police and animal control units hot on her tail. Having decided that she was not going to be taken alive, the cow again allowed herself to be corned in a backyard off of Henderson and Jesse Clark Lanes. After a brief, but albeit intense standoff, an officer fired once, again striking the cow in the head. This time, she died instantly.

Police and animal control units loaded the cow’s body onto a truck where it was brought back to Anderson Custom Pack. Currently, it is unclear if efforts to reach the cow’s family have been successful and so far, there is no word as to whether or not her family will be seeking restitution through the courts.

In lieu of flowers, residents of Pocatello are encouraging folks to eat more beef.


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Attorneys face avalanche of audio and video evidence

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photo 6 CROPPEDAttorneys, are you ready for the avalanche of audio and video evidence?

Your next case may require a new strategy. Will you have the knowledge you need to best handle video surveillance evidence when it arrives on your desk?

For the last couple of years NCAVF has been saying that body worn cameras will inevitably become standard for police officers. It seems that every time there is a high profile, political storm about a particular incident involving surveillance or smartphone recordings of police, the chief of that police department tries to quiet the storm by saying they will soon be testing body worn cameras on their force.

Today it’s the NYC police department with the death of Eric Garner, and a week ago it was the city of Ferguson with the death of Michael Brown.

So what are the strategies and areas of inquiry when you have surveillance evidence? There are many. Our years of high profile cases and audio and video evidence of all kinds has taught us valuable lessons that we can share with you.

We offer a MCLE California Bar approved class at no cost and taught at your firm, and we also send out email updates only once every three months — because we respect your time you’ll see no other emails from us.

Contact us now to signal your interest to learn via email or to have our MCLE class brought to your firm AT NO COST.

We look forward to serving you.
David Notowitz
President, National Center for Audio and Video Forensics

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Following Furguson, Use of Police Body Cameras Continues to Grow

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Nikon 35mm

Old School Police Body Camera

Violence and civil unrest often spark a reactionary response not only in people, but in policy as well. Incidents such as the officer-shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri have stood to exacerbate this type of response. This is true even when the evidence seems clear.

To date, there have been three autopsies conducted on Michael Brown. All three have been consistent in as much as the physical evidence seems to corroborate the Police Officer’s account of the altercation between himself and Brown. None the less, many of the interested parties in this case have been looking for a way to increase accountability. Enter the age of the Police Body Camera. New technology such as Taser’s Axon Body or Axon Flex, VIEVUE’s LE3, or the Bodycam by Pro-Vision are all wearable audio/video recording devices.

The Axon Body, LE3, and Bodycam are all body-worn cameras that can be clipped to an officers shirt, jacket, or ballistic vest. They’re capable of recording both audio and video in high resolution in whatever direction the officer’s body is facing. The Axon Flex is unique in that it is a “point-of-view” on-officer camera, worn as eyeglasses. The Flex will see and record whatever the officer is looking at. Officer worn cameras start at around $400 and go up to around $1,000 per device.

In an age where nearly everyone has a smartphone and where surveillance camera systems are all around (able to make detailed recordings of an event) it may be considered prudent that Law Enforcement be provided the means to record their incidents and encounters as well. This is especially true when the public is demanding more accountability from officers and the agencies and departments that govern them.

Although it is clear that police wearing a device that records nearly all aspects of an altercation seems like a good idea on the surface, it does come with both positive advantages as well as some inherent negative aspects.

Positively speaking, the cameras will allow for a department to have a digital and reviewable record of the events as they transpired. The audio and video clips can be studied, enhanced, and scrutinized for months, or even years, after the event to determine what went right, what went wrong, and what can be learned from the incident. Studying the tactics used in recorded events may help to establish better operating protocols within a department which may improve overall safety for both the officers as well as the public. Imagine if Darren Wilson, the Officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, had been wearing such a camera. The video evidence could be used to answer many questions as to what really happened that day, and it would assist in making sure that justice is served properly and quickly. Further, having such video evidence readily available could save millions of dollars in lawsuits, lost work hours, etc.

However, there may be drawbacks to officers continuously wearing such cameras. Foremost may be the cost. Take for instance the LAPD as they currently have over 10,000 active police officers. Camera’s may not be needed for every officer, as some do administrative or investigative work, but if such a department purchased cameras for ⅓ of a force that sized, it may cost between $1.4 Million and $3.3 Million, and that is only for the cameras themselves. Such costs do not necessarily reflect maintenance of the equipment, storage of the audio and video evidence, processing and enhancement of the evidence, and so on. Further, many officer’s do not like the idea of every word they say or everything they do being recorded and stored indefinitely. This could lead to a decrease in moral or recruitment, which may in turn make it harder for the department to keep the public protected. One could simply ask themselves how willing they would be to allow themselves to be recorded every moment while at work?

It is almost a certainty that as technology continues to improve, so will the effectiveness of our law enforcement. On-officer video and audio recording technology such as the cameras made by Bodycam, Axom, or VIEVUE are definitely intended to improve law enforcement effectualness. Twenty-five years ago, ballistic vests were only worn by some police officers, now they are the standard. Law Enforcement departments and agencies will continue to consider which cameras to deploy, and when to implement them, but it is only a matter of time before body-worn cameras are another standard adopted by all police.

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Multiple Surveillance Camera Footage Helps Identify Abduction Suspect

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Although criminals sometimes seem to be getting more brazen with crimes, the technology used to solve the crimes also continues to improve. In Philadelphia this past Sunday, a woman was kidnapped at approximately 9:40pm as she walked home from a party. The suspect walked up to her, grabbed her, and forced her into his car. The abduction itself only lasts about 11 seconds and was captured on a security surveillance camera.

 The surveillance camera footage shows the suspect drive up and park just outside the camera’s periphery. The suspect then walks up the street and confronts the victim. After a brief struggle, he forces her down the street and into his car. Left behind at the scene was the victim’s cell phone and glasses.

Before the car left, the victim was apparently able to kick out a window. Forensics experts were able to use the glass fragments to identify the year, make, and model of the suspect’s vehicle. Less than nine hours after the abduction, surveillance cameras captured images of a suspect walking through a gas station minimart. Shortly after that, someone in Maryland apparently used the victim’s debit card at an ATM.

Using cutting edge video forensics techniques, Police have been following this trail of surveillance video evidence in order to solve this crime as quickly as possible. As of earlier today, these leads may be what provided law enforcement what they needed. Video and photos from the mini mart and ATM transaction have been analyzed and enhanced to provide the public with images of a suspect.

The use of audio and video surveillance footage continues to help make our country safer.


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Secret Audio Recordings at the Federal Reserve

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At the heart of the United State’s economic infrastructure rests the US Federal Reserve, often referred to simply as the Fed. Created in December of 1913 as a response to a series of financial panics, the Fed’s primary responsibilities include include conducting the nation’s monetary policy, supervising and regulating banking institutions, maintaining the stability of our financial system and providing financial services to depository institutions, the U.S. government, and foreign official institutions. Although the roles and techniques of the fed have changed and evolved over the years, these are the primary tasks of the Fed still today.

The financial instability of 2008, nearly 100 years following the creation of the Fed, showed that despite their best efforts, economic downturn and chaos still occur. As a response to the collapse of several major financial institutions, Congress decided to give the Fed more oversight authority of the nation’s private financial institutions. To this end, the Fed began hiring Expert Examiners to be stationed within many of these “too-big-to-fail” financial institutions as compliance experts. Once such person was Carmen Segarra who was hired via the New York Fed to oversee Goldman Sachs.

Wiretapping, the secretive recording of a conversation either in person or over a phone, can come with serious legal risks when not done lawfully. And this is exactly what Segarra did.

Not long after beginning her employment of working as an Expert Examiner for the Fed, Segarra started observing that her recommendations regarding Goldman Sachs where going unheeded. Further, she became concerned that she may be fired as a retaliatory response to her refusal to go along with the Fed’s alleged “status quo” of leniency –or even ambivalence– to the banking practices of large financial institutions. Seven months later, Segarra was indeed fired. During her employment, however, she clandestinely recorded approximately 46 hours of meetings and conversations between herself and her superiors, managers, and colleagues.

Twelve states, California included, have laws requiring that all parties being recorded must have foreknowledge of the recording. Many states, including New York (where Segarra made her recordings), require that only one party to be informed of the recording. Whatever the case may be, it is important that anyone wanting to create an audio recording know how to do so lawfully within their locale.

In Segarra’s case, she was preemptively preparing for her defense for any action taken against her by her employer. That being the case, her audio recordings are a major piece of evidence in her civil lawsuit against the Fed for her firing.

Segarra’s recordings may illustrate many points; the first of which is a US Fed that is often reluctant to push hard against a large financial institution -such as Goldman Sachs- when the Fed feels policies are being stretched or broken. Further, her recordings show the Fed often struggled to define it’s own supervisory capacity in how it handled these large financial institutions. Sensing these issues, Segarra’s concern grew.

The week she was fired, Segarra recorded a meeting where her boss continuously attempted to convince her to change her conclusion that Goldman Sachs was missing a policy within an upcoming acquisition. Although Segarra agreed to allow her work to be reviewed and overruled by her higher-ups, she steadfastly refused to alter her conclusions.

In an earlier recording, her boss reassured his team (which included Segarra) that, “I’d like these guys [Goldman Sachs] to come away from this meeting confused as to what we think about it. I want to keep them nervous”. His comments were in reference to the upcoming business deal Goldman was going to conduct over which Segarra had concerns. Her boss’s comments were meant to sound tough. However, in the actual meeting, he buckled and no objections were raised against Goldman Sachs.

Although these are just a couple of examples, Segarra collected hours upon hours of such meetings and conversations. Her efforts may serve as an example for anyone wanting to protect themselves. When done lawfully, recording a conversation can be an invaluable tool in a case. As the technology continues to improve, recording devices are becoming smaller and secretly recording a conversation is becoming easier. It’s not unreasonable to assume that nearly all conversations in the near future will be recorded. Make sure you know what you need to in order to protect yourself, regardless of what end of the recording you find yourself. What’s further is that even if the recording is made illegally (e.g. in secret and without consent) it may still be used as evidence in court, either civil or criminal.

The complete “This American Life” article can be accessed here.

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Hollywood Not, But How Real Forensic Science Solves Crimes

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For over a decade now, countless shows have been entertaining us with the tools and gadgets behind the scientific side of crime solving. These instruments and techniques are highlighted in shows such as CSI, Law & Order, NCIS, Bones, Without A Trace, and many others. There is little doubt that shows such as these have not only entertained us, but have even changed the way the public perceives crime solving and forensics analysis in particular; but are the public’s perceptions accurate or even fair? It may be important to explore how real forensic science solves crimes.

Imagine this scene in your head:

A bank has just been robbed. The robbers meticulously planned and executed their brazen daytime heist. When it was all over, they sped away in their shiny black Dodge Charger with what is easily a couple million in untraceable cash, stuffed into several large duffle bags. What the crooks did not count on, however, was the simple deli across the street having a surveillance camera positioned in such a way that it catches the Charger as the robbers make their getaway.

Enter the Crime Scene Investigators! Frustrated at a lack of evidence in the bank, they start looking for some outside the bank and notice the deli’s surveillance camera. A quick analysis of the footage produces a grainy pixelated clip of several figures exiting the bank and hopping into a vehicle before speeding away. This is no problem for these crime scene investigators. A few clicks and commands into their super forensics computer and what was once a barely recognizable video becomes a clear hi-definition video! They zoom in on the bad guys faces and wa-la! All that needs to be done is plug that into some facial recognition software and they’ll have the identities of the robbers in seconds.

Unfortunately, this is a highly romanticized and exaggerated narrative of how modern day forensics experts analyze and enhance video evidence in real life situations. Let’s take another look at the video footage and see what we can really do.

First of all, it’s important to define pixels. Pixels are the smallest unit of visible data which comprise an image. The image could be a still picture or a video, but whatever it is can be broken down to these pixels. The higher a pixel count the original image or video has, the higher the resolution. The higher the resolution, the clearer the image or video is. Forensics experts can only work with the number of pixels that a video has at the time it was recorded. Not only that, but as video surveillance evidence is transferred from a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) to a Flash Drive, the data is often compressed which can also result in a decrease in resolution (e.g. less pixels).

So how does this affect the video of our bank robbers? If the video was grainy and pixelated because it was recorded in a low resolution, no amount of forensic manipulation can un-pixilate it. However, modern forensics can utilize cutting edge software and techniques to get lots of vital and useful data from our video.

Firstly, we may start by focusing on the car, and particularly on the license plate. Video forensics experts can sometimes enhance video characteristics around the license in such a way to discern the characters on the plate. Next we can enhance the video around the robbers themselves. Sometimes it can be cleaned up enough to get a clean facial image. Other times we can discern unique facial characteristics: facial hair, bone structure, skin tone, hair color and/or length, freckles, etc. We can also use video enhancement techniques to determine the height of a suspect or the speed of their car. All this information could be crucial in both in tracking down suspects and as evidence at trial.

In some cases, we’re able to utilize a cutting edge technique known as Frame Averaging. Frame averaging allows a forensic video expert to combine multiple frames and multiple details from a surveillance recording and combine them into a single, high resolution image. Using frame averaging, we may be able to get a much more clear, usable image of a robbers face.

Synchronization is the combining of multiple sources of evidence to clarify an event. In other words, we take multiple videos from multiple cameras and synchronize the footage into one cohegent video clip that best shows the events as they unfolded. We are also able to use all available video evidence to map out the sequence of events. This makes it easier to understand the events that took place and the order in which they occurred; this is extremely helpful evidence in court.

What if the video clip shows someone or a car moving very fast, too fast to understand the movement of a body or the interaction of cars in an accident? We can use slow motion, zooming into footage, and repetitive viewing to help understand the details of a case.

What about audio evidence? We can clarify audio by removing background noise or by lowering a very loud foreground sound or voice. Sometimes we can isolate sounds, for instance a conversation in the background.

There are also technical aspects of video evidence that often need to be clarified to juries. This may include details such as verifying the date and time stamp on a video, determining the video frame rate, and teaching a jury how wide angle lenses or telephoto lenses may alter a viewer’s perception of what they are watching on the TV monitor.

And finally, what about Facial Recognition software? Facial recognition is one area of forensic science that has seen tremendous improvement over the past decade. The FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system is cutting edge in the field of facial recognition. This technology is most effective when utilizing images taken under ideal circumstances, such as ID photos or “mug shots”. Potentially blurry images of a moving suspect taken from a distant camera with low resolution may be very difficult to enhance in order to extract identification. Nonetheless, it is certainly foreseeable in the near future that this type of technology will be improved and its uses increased throughout the world of forensic analysis.

Real life is not always as exciting as Hollywood would have us believe. Sometimes, it’s much harder to get the same results that TV and the movies get. But forensics has come a long way. We are able to uncover things today that was never possible not that long ago. While the field of forensics and crime scene analysis continues to advance and change, we expect to see many more astonishing and helpful techniques that will continue to better both the forensic and scientific communities.


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Inspector General Calls Security Cameras at LAPD Stations Inadequate

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A new report released this past Monday by LAPD Inspector General Alex Bustamante reveals that the LAPD’s security cameras, within their own facilities, are grossly inadequate. Bustamante’s report goes on to show that these cameras offer little to no coverage of the stations key areas, such as prisoner holding cells. An April 10th shooting, within the Department’s West Traffic Division lobby, which left an officer injured and the gunman dead, was not captured properly; thus leading to a hindering of the investigation. Security cameras also failed to adequately record an inmate’s medical emergency within the department’s Southwest Station, that inmate later died.

Assistant Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur blames the “city’s financial crises” as the main cause of the security lapse. MacArthur went on to say that, “addressing the security camera issue is a priority for the department”. Making security cameras a priority, however, entails more than simply installing more cameras. Like many electronic devices, security cameras are sensitive and expensive pieces of delicate equipment. Once properly installed, they must also be regularly maintained and even replaced as they wear out. At any given time, a large Police Department may expect to have between 15%-35% of their security cameras offline. Regular maintenance of their security cameras also has to be considered in the departments budget.

Bustamante’s report on LAPD’s station cameras comes at a crucial time where concerns are also being raised regarding the department’s seemingly slow deployment of dashboard camera technology within LAPD cruisers. Out of four, only one LAPD Bureau has been fitted with dashboard camera technology to date. The August 11th shooting of Ezell Ford by LAPD officers was in a bureau without the dashboard cameras. The shooting has sparked protests which may have been avoided had the department deployed the dashboard camera technology in all bureaus.

These incidents are what prompted the internal investigation into the current status of the LAPD’s security camera system. Bustamante’s report further states that not only are security cameras not routinely inspected, but problems with the cameras are often only discovered when security footage is requested and found to be faulty or missing altogether. The LAPD also seems to have little to no security over their own camera system leaving many of the cameras, as well as their recording devices, vulnerable to tampering. What’s more, a department as large as the LAPD’s requires a high number of security cameras. The more cameras there are, the more there is to maintain. Having a large number of cameras also requires most of these cameras to be mounted on ceilings. Such a downward angle does not always provide for capturing faces and other important details.

When the department attempted to get funding for improvements to the security cameras for the 2013-14 fiscal year, they were told the funds had been allocated elsewhere. Moving forward, Inspector General Bustamante is requesting cameras be installed in all areas where inmates are either processed or held, such as holding cells or booking stalls. Installing equipment such as security cameras, however, is not a task simply left to a typical city maintenance technician.

The proper camera and lens must be perfectly matched and configured for the location in which it is being used. How wide of an angle is to be captured, what are the lighting conditions, how far of a distance is the camera capturing? These are just some of the details that need to be determined when deciding what type of equipment to use. Further, security cameras are run by specific software, as are the Digital Video Recording (DVR) devices used to save the data the cameras catch. Knowing how to install and configure, and even how to choose what equipment is best, must be done by an expert in the field of audio and video surveillance and forensics. Any law enforcement agency, or even private entity for that matter, must take all this into consideration when budgeting for security cameras.

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