As an attorney who handles DUI cases from different municipalities and counties, I have found that there are several different types of police squad video capture devices. Sometimes this can become a problem, as either something important is not recovered, or cannot be played back except on a certain type of device. This happened a few weeks ago, when the prosecutor in one of my cases was unable to play the officer’s squad video on the DVD player in the courtroom and had to present her case without it.
Now it looks like voluntary standards will soon be adopted, which will likely result in uniformity of devices.
National standards for police vehicle digital recording systems are close to being finalized, an official with the agency developing those standards told an audience attending a conference on electronic forensics.
The National Institute of Justice’s Office of Science and Technology is working on the “final, final” standards for digital-video systems for vehicles, OST Division Director William Ford told attendees of the Forensic Enabled Intelligence conference being held in Alexandria, Va.
In 2010, the NIJ produced a draft document—Vehicular Digital Multimedia Evidence Recording System Standard for Law Enforcement—which has yet to be finalized, according to NIJ officials. The draft document requires vehicle-camera digital-recording systems to be equipped with two cameras, two microphones, a digital recorder, a video monitor and an audio monitor.
Those systems must have the option of incorporating at least one additional wireless microphone, and the capability of recording “digital multimedia evidence” and exporting that DME, the draft said. Those systems shall be capable of recording a minimum of two video streams and a minimum of three synchronized audio streams and associated metadata.
The draft document lists performance standards for the recording systems including requiring such systems to be switchable between auto and manual focus; and the primary camera is capable of being rotated 90 degrees in either direction from the camera’s front facing position, according to the document. The camera also has to be capable of operation in low light.
The camera system’s wireless microphones will have a battery life of 15 hours in the passive mode and 3.5 hours in the active mode, the document says. All the microphones are to be capable of capturing sounds greater than, or equal to, 50 dB at about three feet, the draft says.
However, the standards have to be validated and that requires testing of police vehicle digital recording systems which Joan LaRocca, a DoJ public affairs specialist, said is scheduled to occur sometime this year.
While the NIJ is likely to move forward with the vehicle camera standards, Ford added that most of institute’s standards are “voluntary standards,” including the vehicle camera standards. “While having a video camera in a car is something that helps police, (and) protects police,” the NIJ’s standards are more designed to ensure that law enforcement agencies “are aware” of the technologies available, he said.