Today’s law enforcement officers are facing unprecedented challenges. While new technology, such as facial recognition, is reaching the market to aid in identifying and prosecuting criminals, there is also a growing resistance due to concerns about privacy issues. Additionally, new gains are being made in civil rights and equality causes, and these are often accompanied by civil unrest with the potential for harm and injury. In such turbulent times, it is essential to take every step possible to maintain public trust and safety without compromising the ability to fully execute law enforcement professionals’ mission to serve and protect.
Fortunately, this is where technology can also help to build bridges with communities. Some of the very same solutions that have raised questions can also provide answers, thereby addressing some of the most pressing problems facing law enforcement professionals right now.
Social Responsibility and The Need for Trust
The relationship and contract between police officers and the public needs to be based on trust. Even with the clearly-defined authority to do their jobs, law enforcement professionals must develop and maintain confidence in the fact that they are committed to caring for the public, which is essential to create an environment that enables them to truly protect the public. This was one of the initial objectives in deploying body-worn cameras – to deliver incontrovertible evidence in the form of video to support the actions taken by officers responding to an incident, while also providing a new level of accountability to help preserve much-needed public trust.
During an emerging crime or other event, officers must remain focused on their primary responsibilities as responders. For technology to provide the supportive role for which it is designed, it needs to function smoothly and seamlessly without getting in the way of the essential work being done. For body-worn cameras, this takes on a number of meanings.
BWCs should keep running in every kind of weather, including rain, high humidity, and heat, so that evidence capture continues uninterrupted. From an ease-of-use perspective, it should be exceptionally simple to grab and mount, so that it does not slow officers’ response time in an emergency. To make it as quick and easy as possible for active officers to use, it should enable lightning-fast initiation of recording from a number of different inputs, no matter how pressed they are for time.
From an evidence-management perspective, your body-worn camera should enable easy synchronization of video recordings with your in-vehicle computer system. It should also be fully integrated with whatever unified digital evidence management software you use, in order to preserve a verifiable chain of custody for video evidence. This is a vitally important feature, especially in today’s world of deepfakes where videos can be manipulated to show almost anything happening, and chain of custody challenges could potentially negate the value of authentic incident video.
Finally, your body-worn camera system should provide flexible storage options that enable storage of video evidence on premise, in the cloud or in a hybrid storage solution of both.
Meeting the Rising Call for Privacy
Facial recognition technology has brought both new capabilities and new scrutiny to law enforcement operations. While the ability to identify criminals from surveillance video undoubtedly aids in the process of arrest and conviction after a crime has been committed, there has been growing resistance to the creation of massive identity databases and the appearance that any individual can be “watched” or “tracked”.
With the huge numbers of Freedom-of-Information-Act requests being handled by law enforcement today, agencies have been forced to allocate more and more personnel time to editing video. This is exacerbated by the growing volume of video from body-worn cameras, in-car cameras, mounted surveillance cameras and the mobile phones of millions of individuals. One of the most time-consuming aspects of this video editing is the manual redaction of people’s faces to protect the identities of those bystanders not involved in the incidents.
Recognizing the vital importance of building and maintaining trust with our communities, it is crucial that agencies leverage available software solutions to address privacy concerns wherever possible. Here again, there is technology that can help. Using combined AI and machine learning to automate the video redaction process, existing software can reduce the time needed for the manual processes of uploading, storing, searching, editing, and sharing video content. As with the BWC, in order for this software to provide a supportive role to law enforcement, it needs to offer a number of essential features.
Your redaction solution should be fully automated, with the ability to upload multiple videos for overnight batch redaction processing. The user interface should be easy to learn and operate, with convenient administrative tools for secure multi-user management. Most important, it should have the capability of working with all videos in the mp4 format, so that you are able to easily and conveniently protect the privacy of individuals on any video you have – including from iPhone and Android devices.
Ideally, like your body-worn cameras, it should also integrate with your other systems, including your digital evidence management software. This provides further support for chain-of-custody evidence authentication. And finally, it should offer storage options both on-premise and in the cloud.
Law Enforcement Technology in a Changing World
While the cultural and social environment may be changing rapidly, the responsibility of law enforcement officers remains the same. Technology itself is morally neutral – it is the intent of the user that matters. By using emerging technology to empower our work, agencies can take a meaningful step better meet the needs of our communities.