Digital evidence puts cloud in focus

The way that police forces capture digital evidence and then securely store and share that data is becoming increasingly important as the deployment of body-worn video (BWV) cameras gathers pace.

Jul 6, 2016
By Paul Jacques

The way that police forces capture digital evidence and then securely store and share that data is becoming increasingly important as the deployment of body-worn video (BWV) cameras gathers pace.

When Dr Barak Ariel and Dr Alex Sutherland from the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology published the results of their widely-cited US experiment on BWV – The Effect of Police Body-Worn Cameras on Use of Force and Citizens’ Complaints Against the Police: A Randomised Controlled Trial – conducted alongside Rialto police chief Tony Farrar in 2012, they noted that the sheer levels of data storage required as the cameras are increasingly adopted has the potential to become crippling.

Dr Ariel said that “the velocity and volume of data accumulating in police departments – even if only a fraction of recorded events turn into ‘downloadable’ recordings for evidentiary purposes – will exponentially grow over time”.

“In just the past six months, several of the largest forces in the UK – the Metropolitan Police Service, Greater Manchester Police and West Midlands Police – have made long-term investments in BWV and associated digital evidence management solutions,” said Matt Spencer, managing director of Axon Public Safety, the UK subsidiary of BWV specialist Taser International.

“Forces are now recognising that it’s not just about the BWV camera. They understand that it’s about the different ways in which you capture digital evidence and then how you manage, retrieve, securely store and share that data. It’s about the end-to-end workflow of that evidence so it can be used to protect the truth and protect victims of crime.

“Hyper-cloud technologies like Taser International’s Evidence.com are driving how we use digital evidence in order to achieve these positive outcomes for forces. The cloud is the key enabler and today we are only seeing a fraction of what is going to be possible in the next three to five years.”

Video captured on BWV cameras automatically uploads via a docking station to Evidence.com, a secure cloud-based storage and management system, where it can be easily accessed for review.

West Midlands Police recently signed a contract for 1,600 Axon Body 2 cameras, along with a multi-year contract for Evidence.com, followings a 12-month trial.

In addition to the cameras and Evidence.com, officers will also use Axon Capture and Axon View mobile apps. West Midlands Police says that from capturing audio evidence to live-streaming video in the field, “the mobile apps helped solidify the solution as the best fit within the framework of WMP2020”, its five-year transformation programme.

West Midlands Police Chief Superintendent Chris Todd said the cloud-based storage and management system is “cost-effective, flexible and secure” and they can “easily share with third parties like the courts, Crown Prosecution Service, defence solicitors and others”.

“In addition to providing us a central repository for securely managing our digital evidence, the Axon solution also provides an opportunity for us to present better evidence in the courtroom,” he added.

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