Mobile digital video evidence collection systems offer clear advantages for law enforcement

Recently, the Communication and Technology Management Office of the Austin, Tx., Police Department was the recipient of a prestigious 2013 GCN Award for IT Achievement. The department was nominated for its transition from VHS mobile video recording systems in its patrol vehicles to Toughbook® Arbitrator 360° ™ mobile digital video evidence systems, which have substantially increased the evidentiary value of mobile video, and overall efficiency throughout the department.

With more than 500 Austin PD patrol vehicles and 60 motorcycles equipped with the new technology, the greatest benefit has been “the documentation of the truth,” said Austin Assistant Chief Sean Mannix in an article that appeared in American Police Beat Magazine.

“When we can go back and review an incident and see what occurred from the perspective of what that officer was facing and what that digital video system was able to capture, that goes a long way toward helping us understand exactly what happened,” Mannix said. Panasonic Arbitrator 360 HD

Mobile digital video evidence collection systems are quickly becoming vital technology for first responders due to the numerous benefits they offer. Few things are as powerful in a courtroom as clear video evidence catching an offender in the act. These systems also have other benefits – they provide for officer safety and can help streamline communications between public safety organizations. Furthermore, with an unbiased record of events, officers and agencies are better equipped to respond to complaints and build stronger relationships within their communities.

Like the Austin PD, many law enforcement organizations around the country are looking to boost their efficiency and effectiveness with a mobile digital video evidence collection system upgrade. Here are a few important considerations to keep in mind.

Quality Matters: Since the video is being recorded to be used as evidence, it’s critical that it is as high-quality as possible. A fuzzy, dim video will likely be all but worthless in a courtroom. A high-resolution video may pick up small details that an officer may not notice, or enable new capabilities such as viewing license plate numbers in near complete darkness or documenting suspect activity from hundreds of yards away.

Recently, significant advances have been made to bring amazing new imaging power to mobile video evidence collection systems. Panasonic’s new Arbitrator 360° HD camera, redesigned based on Panasonic’s industry-leading surveillance camera technology, is able to record in 1080p Full HD resolution via its front camera to deliver the industry’s highest quality video evidence. This is a step above 720p High Definition, enabling advanced capabilities such as high-quality image details and sharpness, and ultra-accurate color representation.

Ensure Evidence Integrity: For video to be used in any kind of court proceeding, it must be complete and unaltered. The responsibility lies with the law enforcement officer to demonstrate that the correct steps were taken to capture, transmit, store and handle the video file in a secure way without any opportunity for tampering. If the file’s integrity is questionable, it would be all too easy for an opposing counsel to get a critical piece of video evidence thrown out of court.

Panasonic Arbitrator 360 HDPanasonic’s Arbitrator 360° HD system is equipped with a tamper-resistant electromagnetic key lock to ensure the security of the data, while image stabilization and image distortion correction technologies will maintain the evidence integrity of the original file while optimizing footage for playback.

Keep Back-End Management and Storage in Mind: Full HD resolution video offers substantial improvements in quality, but along with this comes substantially larger video files. Agencies must have a strategy for offloading, storing and managing these video files to ensure they will be accessible when they’re needed.

Technology like the Rocket Vehicle Router from Utility Inc. supports the offload of video evidence from in-vehicle systems to a Rocket Access Point (RAP) at a rate of up to 1GB of video data in less than two minutes from multiple vehicles while maintaining a secure chain of custody. When installed in a vehicle, the Rocket router creates a secure Wireless Area Network around the car that enables live streaming with remote zoom from the Arbitrator 360° HD system as well as the ability to deliver real-time GPS data from vehicles to dispatch and receive remote firmware updates.

Back-end management is a critical component of any solution that can’t be ignored. Systems like Panasonic’s SafeServ™ Evidence Management Software Suite serve as a comprehensive file management system that aligns with chain of custody requirements – ingesting and managing an expanded range of digital evidence types including still and digital images, digital video, case files and report documents from multiple agencies. The system can also collect and process digital video evidence recorded by Panasonic WV-TW310 wearable cameras or security cameras.

To learn more about mobile digital video evidence collection systems or to check out the new Arbitrator 360° HD, visit Panasonic at the 120th Annual IACP Conference and Exposition in Philadelphia, booth 331, October 19-23, 2013.