As the recent tragic bombing in Boston illustrated, the public desires to help law enforcement in times of crisis and even in more mundane crime-fighting activities. Those citizens should have a vehicle to easily communicate not only what they know but what they (and their cameras) have seen to law enforcement. But they don’t. After the Marathon bombing, images from citizens were sent to the news media, texted to Police Officer’s phones, and even dropped at the police station on thumbdrives and discs during the search for the suspects.
There has rightfully been a lot of attention directed at the use of still photos and surveillance video in identifying and capturing the suspects in Boston. But that is only part of the story. Law enforcement only truly succeeds if that photographic evidence may be used to bring the suspects to justice, a feat that’s much easier said than done.
The tools necessary for law enforcement organizations to acquire and act upon still or video imagery are extremely valuable. But once that information comes into the hands of law enforcement, it needs to be validated and it has to be rendered immutable. In other words, juries need to know that the information is an accurate representation of the crime scene and that imagery hasn’t been tampered with, PhotoShopped ™ or otherwise manipulated while in the hands of the police.
This not an easy task to accomplish. The creation of an immutable image requires both a hardware and a software solution to ensure that the primary copy of digital content is rendered impenetrable to tampering or loss. Law enforcement organizations also need to share this digital information and move it around within their departments and even to external agencies.
For these reasons, a sound system, must address the chain of custody and the metadata associated with the photograph or video. Then the system has to provide rapid analytics to ferret out scars, marks, tattoos, faces and other attributes s that allows the investigator to proceed with the identification of suspects.
In addition, juries need to be convinced that seeing is believing. The accompanying audit trail that is associated with every piece of digital content needs to be clea. They must be able to recognize the inherent reliability of digital evidence and act on it in the same way that they would eyewitness testimony or opinions rendered by an expert witness.
For example, the largest police force in Australia has used the Unisys Secure Image Management Solution as an effective tool for acquiring, documenting and managing all sorts of digital evidence, including still photos and video images. Law enforcement organizations in the U.S. and other countries are looking at similar deployments.
The ability to acquire digital imagery is an essential and extremely valuable tool for law enforcement to track down and arrest criminals. But it’s only part of the story. Law enforcement organizations must also focus on the technology solutions they will need after suspects are apprehended.