Video Redaction and Police Transparency
As body worn camera (BWC) technology continues to gain ground among many law enforcement agencies, there’s been a lot of concerns regarding the accountability and transparency of the entire process.
Statistics show that over 80% of all criminal offenses recorded in the US often have to do with either video or audio evidence. And according to the Institute of Human Studies (IHS), there will be more than three trillion hours of surveillance video footage recorded every day all through the year 2019.
Lately, the number of police departments that are deploying and experimenting with body worn cameras is growing in leaps and bounds. And the call for strict adherence to every citizen’s right to information privacy law is increasing equally. This is because BWCs can breach citizens’ privacy laws and, if not redacted, leak sensitive information to the public.
To combat these privacy issues, the information and data privacy policies have been ramped up in some places to limit, regulate, and control the adoption rate of BWCs.
Many people believe the introduction and ratification of body-worn cameras will create a room for transparency and accountability in every police action. At the same time, some people believe the program clearly jeopardizes citizens’ right to privacy in every way.
Optimizing Video Redaction with Body Worn Camera Technology
Without a doubt, BWCs offer every law enforcement agency some important benefits that were impossible to achieve previously. What then does the police department have to do to continue enjoying this technology without infringing on the privacy right of the citizens? There’s only one definite answer, and that is video redaction.
Any law enforcement agency that seeks transparency and accountability in all their actions may be overwhelmed by the demands for video evidence. Yet, every video footage must be ascertained to be free of any characteristics that may jeopardize the privacy of innocent citizens and bystanders.
In any police interrogation proceedings, any video evidence that captures the details of a minor or some other personally identifiable information (PII) is to be concealed and hidden without changing the narrative of the evidence.
The police department will also have to conceal every information that relates to the identity of an informant, witness, or undercover agents captured in video evidence or testimony. Redaction also becomes necessary if the video footage includes some personal information like tattoos or vehicle license plates that can threaten the safety of the citizens involved.
At times, this task may be too enormous for the police to handle manually without sacrificing accuracy and efficiency. This is where video redaction software becomes extremely useful and indispensable and when it becomes necessary to respond to a court or prosecutor’s request for video evidence, nothing beats the efficiency of video redaction software.
Not only will the police agency be able to provide the evidence right on time as required but also blur out the identities of all witnesses and innocent citizens without disrupting the evidence.
Bridging the Gap Between Effective Policing Operations and Transparency
As technology continues to advance, the human race continues to veer into an era where virtually everything is driven by data. And at this point, it is completely right to assume that the management and processing of data will go a long way to determine the future of the criminal justice system in this country.
Public security agencies understand the importance of this, and they are consistently harnessing the wealth of information provided by these technologies.
However, managing data and information without sabotaging the privacy of the citizens seems to be a tricky one for these agencies. The police department, for example, is always at loggerhead with the people over the adoption of sophisticated BWCs, which they find troubling in a democratic system of government.
From video surveillance cameras to online biometric databases, security agencies can easily videotape and access the private information of the citizens without their consent and if this information falls into the wrong hand, it may have a devastating impact on the lives and finances of the people involved.
While the fuss around the adoption of the BWC system may linger for a while, it takes nothing away from the popularity of the technology. This is validated by the significant increase in the number of security agencies that implement the use of BWCs in most states. As the push to increase the use of police operated cameras in the United States and around the world continues to gain ground, it is important to point out the need for law enforcement agencies to safeguard the information of the citizens they have sworn to protect.
By adopting the best video redaction software, the police department can gather legally admissible evidence against criminals without abusing the privacy of innocent bystanders. For example, the state of Alaska had to temporarily suspend the use of body-worn camera technology in 2016, mainly because of privacy issues. As at that time, the state couldn’t enact a video redaction process that will be in accordance with the public records requests as necessitated by the state law. However, once they were able to lay their hands on great BWCs with equally functional video redaction software, the program was resumed.
Effective redaction of BWC generated footage provides the police department with a credible way of defending their personnel against false claims while removing every legally protected content.
AI-based Video Redaction Software in Optimizing Redaction and Concealing Sensitive Information
Artificial intelligence comes with a lot of potentials that will help improve and enhance the speed and accuracy of every redaction process. And with the emergence of AI-enabled video redaction software, law enforcement agencies can now keep innocent citizens out of harm’s way while backing up their investigations with credible video evidence.
AI-enabled video redaction software uses a powerful face detection feature to help redact the PII of innocent citizens captured in a piece of digital evidence without disrupting the digital evidence disclosure workflows. Within a few minutes, this software will comb through a very large number of video footage to fish out sensitive characteristics and redact them all with pinpoint accuracy.
Additionally, law enforcement agencies may find this very useful whenever they are looking to shorten the manual review of voluminous digital evidence without trumping on the privacy of the people. By simplifying and organizing the redaction process, AI-enabled video redaction software will deliver an outstanding job when it comes to speed, accuracy, and efficiency.
A streamlined workflow will help optimize the productivity of law enforcement agencies by enhancing the credibility of an ongoing investigation and improving the integrity of police operations. AI has totally transformed and redefined video redaction. And if fully harnessed, it can add efficiency to every police investigation process while preserving the privacy and safety of the citizens.
Adopting Strict BWC Policies to Preserve the Citizens’ Privacy and Improve Accountability
As the main subject of discussion during the Police Executive Research forum in 2014, the police department understands the reason behind the concerns of the citizens regarding the use of BWCs by its officers. And the truth is, while AI goes a long way to take away the fears, every law enforcement agency that adopts the BWC technology still has to duly observe some protocols as required by the law and ordinances of the state.
The police department has sworn to protect and serve the citizens with all their capacity and they are ready to walk their talk. Below are some of the protocols recommended for every police agency using BWC technology.
- While capturing video footage, the police officers should make it a point of duty to inform the subjects they are videotaping their activities. However, this recommendation may not be viable if the action will pose a threat to the life of the police officers, passers-by, and nearby citizens.
- In some cases, consent may or may not be required (as specified by the state law) before videotaping a criminal interrogation proceeding. However, seeking and obtaining prior consent before making a video recording of the process will enhance transparency and improve the integrity of police actions.
- It is also important that the police officers show great respect for the citizens’ privacy or secrecy even without them demanding it. In doing so, the police agency should be able to exercise caution by discreetly turning off their cameras while interviewing witnesses of crime or citizens who are just trying to report suspicious criminal activity in their environment.
- The police department should also make a conscious effort to enlighten the community about their mode of operations and how the BWC technology works. When the community understands how the technology works in line with video redaction software, they will also be able to make useful inputs and suggestions that will overly aid police accountability and improve transparency.
The introduction of BWC technology in the operations of the law enforcement agencies may be contentious, to say the least, but if used correctly, it could create a way to build trust and legitimacy between the police department and the citizens.
Credibility and transparency are the backbones of successful police operations in any community. Police officers will find it very difficult to effectively carry out their duties without the support of the citizens.
The citizens trust the police to protect and serve them without infringing on their private lives as their job entails. That is why adopting BWC technology warrants extra care and attention in the form of competent video redaction software to ensure that the police department stays within its jurisdiction while carrying out their duties.