The Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act
The portable camera, an invention from 1888 that revolutionized how we capture moments, has also significantly impacted society. Being able to obtain your experienced moments visually allows us to preserve and share our memories easily. Building onto this transformative device, modern advancements introduce the use of cameras in the medical field, such as laparoscopes, in outer space, with the Curiosity Mars Rover Mast, and even in law enforcement with the use of body-worn cameras.
The year 2020 has been an unforgettable year for a lot of us, whether we felt like we were personally affected or not. From a deadly virus, civil rights protests, and presidential elections, we were constantly bombarded with fear, information, and hard choices. Monumental events are always undoubtedly captured by cameras. The Covid-19 Pandemic, for example, showed how the camera was able to allow dying patients to share their last moments with their loved ones since social distancing was heavily in effect.
It allowed a private and intimate moment to be possible, which otherwise would have been an even more dreadful experience. Other moments, such as George Floyd’s death, were not so intimate and shared so widely across the world that a movement was born, creating lawful impacts such as the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act.
More on the Amendment Act
An “Amendment Act” is what describes legislation that can alter existing laws instead of producing a new law from the ground up. The Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act is a standalone emergency legislation passed by the D.C. Council in June 2020, amending some existing laws relating to justice reform and policing. Some of the main additions include:
- Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) annually reports to the D.C. Council all data relating to use-of-force incidents, officer discipline, and body-worn camera (BWC) release.
- The Office of Police Complaints Authority expanded its responsibilities to include investigating and making recommendations on police misconduct cases with access to relevant information.
- Having a new “use of force” standard to ensure the amount of force used is reasonable and necessary to accomplish the law enforcement purpose.
- Establishing new disciplinary procedures for officers who may be in violation of any “use of force” standards.
These additions are focused on redesigning standards, holding rule breakers accountable, and allowing for the consistent monitoring of the data for observational-based improvements.
Lastly, one of the laws amended was the Code to require body-worn camera videos to be released within 72 hours of officers’ death or after any use of serious force with the appropriate redactions applied. This requirement is to create better transparency and accountability by providing timely access to information regarding any incident that involves a death of an officer or excessive force. Requiring the release of body-worn camera videos also means that the videos must be redacted accurately and efficiently to protect the privacy of all the people caught on video, whether they were directly involved in the incident or not.
Body-worn Cameras and Redactions
Body-worn cameras are a type of camera typically worn on the body of a person who is working and interacting with the public. BWCs are different from other types of cameras since they are small and portable, provide a unique point of view, and are hands-free, allowing interactivity with members of the community.
These different features of BWCs allow those working with the public, such as police officers, to conveniently continue work as usual while still capturing the video and audio of their interactions. Some of these body-worn cameras are also equipped with redaction tools that allow the redaction, or removal, of sensitive data all within one device. However, a lot of those using body-worn cameras seem to search for a third-party redaction tool to meet their agency’s redaction requirements; why is that?
Some of the most common complaints when it comes to redacting videos and audio files with the redaction tools attached to the body-worn cameras are that they can be time-consuming, inaccurate, have limited functionality, and cause security concerns. With the newly amended law in place, it is essential that redactions are done correctly and in a timely manner in order to comply and not risk facing any penalties.
With the common issues found among redaction tools implemented in BWCs, the third-party redaction software you opt to use has to outperform the former. Some redaction tools may have reliable redactions for one kind of asset, videos, for example, but may not measure up as expected when redacting audio. It is crucial to make sure that the quality of work is consistent and reliable across the board, no matter the asset.
The third-party redaction software would have essential features that ease your redaction work, such as AI redaction capabilities. This automates the analysis of your videos in order to identify and censor what you’ve selected. With AI, you can redact all faces, license plates, and screens from the BWC video footage with a few clicks. Some BWCs have AI capabilities but can be inaccurate and do not seem to be able to detect and redact ALL of the selected items, which means there is a need for manual intervention.
Manually redacting allows more accuracy and reassurance but is very time-consuming, which is risky considering the time limit to produce these redacted videos is only 72 hours.
BWCs have perfected capturing what is necessary but may lack flexibility with their redaction abilities. Third-party redaction software companies are dedicated to improving the redaction process because that is their primary focus, unlike BWC companies, whose main focus is on video and audio capture.
Being able to perform redactions in bulk, work collaboratively, apply redaction reasons, and more makes redacting easy and convenient; these are all things third-party redaction software companies strive to provide. When using redaction services included with BWCs, there are also concerns regarding security since some BWCs use the cloud to store their video repositories.
To avoid any concerns, some look to redaction software that securely holds all of your BWC files locally, like CaseGuard Studio. It’s also essential that the source of your assets, the file type, quality, and any other factors, are compatible with the redaction software in order to be appropriately redacted.
There is no use in purchasing fantastic redaction software if you cannot utilize it. One way to approach this is by having the redaction software convert your file type to any format it needs and export it properly. CaseGuard Studio does just that, allowing for a streamlined and effective redaction process.
Before the Amendment Act
You may be wondering how the current standards compare to the previous ones. Unfortunately, the lack of consistency and transparency was always an issue when it came to particular cases, which was one of the driving forces behind police reform protests. Prior to the current amended requirements, BWC video releases were not subjected to specific standards or deadline requirements. The release of these requested videos was either done so wholly or voluntarily denied and withheld from the public.
This is an obvious obstacle that restrains the public’s access to necessary information, which we all have the right to obtain. Having amendments like The Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act is a step in the right direction because it demonstrates a commitment to addressing concerns surrounding policing and justice. It provides an opportunity to establish fairness and accountability within the criminal justice sector and ultimately stabilize the foundation of trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.