On June 1st, Grant Fredericks, a certified Forensic Video Analyst and a contract instructor at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, VA kicked off iNPUT-ACE’s first Training Symposium with his presentation on “Conducting a Video-Centric Investigation: Preparing for the Endgame.” More than 500 global attendees were able to see Mr. Fredericks share his 30+ years of video expertise and the information provided was quite impressive, even for a retired Police Chief.
One of the valuable takeaways was an investigative checklist that Grant explained should be used when collecting video evidence from a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) system. When used properly, this checklist will help ensure authenticity, validation and the ability to research virtually any question that may arise.
In this overview, we will dive into why each of these items is important to the investigator and we’ll explore why the integrity of video images should be examined just as we examine the reliability of any other eye witness.
DVR Manufacturer – DVRs are often mass-produced and will vary in capabilities and performance. Knowing the manufacturer will allow you to research how they produce their brand of proprietary digital video.
DVR Model Number – Again, knowing the model number can provide critical insight into video behavior and the best way to process it. Additionally, there can be significant differences between models. In fact, in some cases, the same manufacturer may source different encoding components from different OEM vendors.
Software Version – There can be major differences in how the software stores, converts, and plays back the video. Many times, playback software will alter the video evidence. So, knowing the software version allows you to replicate and report on any known inconsistencies that may occur in the video.
Password – Don’t laugh, but if you ever need to go back into the system, you will want to make sure you have recorded this information. With a product such as DVR Examiner, you can bypass the password, but it will mean having to take custody of the DVR hard drive.
Owner/Reference Contact Details – Inevitably, critical questions arise during an investigation such as the number of cameras, their placement, hard drive size, retention period and more that may not have been acquired by first responders at the scene. The owner or manager of the facility that recorded the evidence often becomes an important resource later in a case and may even be required as a trial witness.
Number of Cameras – Often first responders will obtain video from a camera that most likely captured the events, but later, investigators discover that the suspects were actually in other areas captured to different cameras prior to the crime. Those other cameras frequently provide critical evidence of identification.
Camera Perspective Diagram – This is a really important checklist item and one that is often overlooked. Documenting the angle and location of each camera is important for reporting and may help to mitigate attacks during cross-examination.
Date and Timestamp / Offset to Real-Time – Documenting the device’s date and time stamp is a must, but you will find it to be problematic if you do not also record the current time to show the offset between the DVR time and the actual time. Documenting this at the time of data collection is extremely important so that you can easily match up the video time stamp to the incident and to other supporting video evidence. Software, such as iNPUT-ACE and DVR Examiner allow you to automatically calculate this offset to make sure you can quickly find the relevant time frames that are important to your case.
File Hash (standard process to validate the video data) – Hashing your file is a simple way to ensure that the evidence is unaltered from the time you retrieve it from the DVR to its presentation at trial. A hash is a unique digital signature for any file. The hash ensures that any future copies can be validated as being exactly the same as the original video evidence.
This checklist content was developed based on the content of just one session during the symposium. If you were not able to attend the Training Symposium that iNPUT-ACE hosted June 1st to June 5th, you can still sign up to access all 10 classes. Check out the presenters and the sessions at iNPUT-ACE.com/Symposium. Or email your questions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.