All law enforcement agencies are careful when sharing information online or with the general public, especially when the information is sensitive. This is as a result of the threats that these agencies constantly face from the illegitimate sharing of sensitive private information.
With the increase in the usage of the body worn equipment and the law enforcement agencies dealing with the freedom of information act request and court rulings, redaction of videos has earned a lot of praises and criticisms from the general public. But it has come to stay and will continue to gain widespread recognition in as much as its benefits continue to outweigh its flaws.
Today, there are many online tools and software that handle the blurring or blocking of the imagery content of the video. But one part which we have blatantly ignored or not paid similar attention to is the audio aspect, which is just as important as the video contents.
At a time when the police department is still looking to regain the trust and confidence of the general public after some years of dwindling approval rating, filtering out sensitive audio content from an audio file, a video, or a taped conversations will go a long way to improve the integrity and credibility of the police’s investigation, police encounters, and interrogation process.
Presenting Credible Audio Evidence Without Infringing on the Citizen's Privacy
As an integral part of the evidence and police investigation process, audio redaction software should ensure that every piece of evidence is safe, secure, and valid.
While tenable audio evidence tends to resolve issues quickly and help to ascertain the root cause of some crimes, the police department cannot release every piece of audio in its custody to a public hearing. There may be a need to redact the audio file to conceal some information and hide sensitive data.
911 calls are the quickest and the most used way of reporting emergencies. 911 centers deal with numerous requests for the audio recording of their emergency communications, which is critical to the police investigation. Poorly redacted audio raises more doubt than a video, which makes the recording of audio evidence vital to an excellent investigation process. How the audio is redacted and presented as substantial evidence to the court, or requesters is even more critical.
Audio redaction is probably prone to the accusation of manipulation of evidence. The audio recording should never be trusted with outdated technology and its redaction with ineffective software. As the sheer volume of audio information to be redacted grows, there is a need for effective audio redaction software.
What Is Audio Redaction Software?
Audio redaction software is a program that automatically removes any sensitive information that can compromise the security of the police personnel or citizens and replaces them with tones, beeps, or silence.
An audio recording of a call, conversation, or audio-visual often contains sensitive information that can breach the privacy and put people at security risks. It is vital to get all the information needed by the police for proper investigations. Protecting the privacy and the safety of those involved in the recording is of the utmost importance.
Not long ago, most law enforcement agencies depend solely on their employees to painstakingly go through every audio file and fish out sensitive information that is to be redacted manually.
This process is both energy and time-consuming, and may also result in elongated investigation processes and delayed interrogation proceedings.
Today, we have some top performing audio redaction software that will get the job done simply and quickly without compromising the evidence.
While transcription of audio is used in many investigations, having the audio recording of an emergency call, interviews, and videos from body worn cameras solve investigation faster. Audio redaction software automatically identifies, analyzes, and removes the sensitive part. It is removed in a way that is not reversible and preserves the metadata for proof of authenticity. This will help enable a fair platform for criminal interrogation proceedings and guarantee high confidence in information security while making the police work easier and more efficient.
How Does Audio Redaction Software Process and Redact Information?
A call to 911 or recording with any information captured or shared should be confidential. In the case of FOIA request, the privacy of the individuals in the recording must be protected by the law enforcement agency. If the redaction is done manually, the chance of leaving sensitive information in redacted audio by oversight is high. Good audio redaction software that can automatically redact this information can save a lot of time for any police department. Some of this sensitive information to be automatically redacted include:
- Date of birth
- Social security number
- License plates number
- Medical information or medical history
- Home address and business address
- Any personal identifying information
- Other privileged information
Importance of Audio Redaction Software to Law Enforcement
The purpose of redacting audio is to remove any privileged and Personal Identifiable Information (PII) from the audio file before it can be shared with the public. It is a monotonous and time-consuming task, which can lead to a lot of critical omissions when done manually. Mistakes often result in starting the whole process all over.
Audio redacting software can easily remove sensitive information or replace them with tones, beeps, or silence. Reliable audio redaction software saves the police department of the need for employing private companies that will spike the expenses of the department. Audio redaction software comes with an algorithm that caters to the specific redaction needs of law enforcement. It is essential to respond to numerous FOIA requests without suspects, informants, victims, and the general public information compromised.
Ethics of Audio Redaction and Requirement of Audio Redaction Software
Audio redaction of evidence should be carried out only by the law enforcement agency and authorized personnel. Observing some ethics when redacting audio files is vital to keep its legitimacy. A piece of evidence must be consistent and not give any room to doubt. Hence, extra care needs to be taken when choosing audio redaction software because they must be in line with the basic ethics of redaction.
Here are the basic ethics of redacting audio and the requirement of the audio redaction software.
- Redaction only on request: An audio is often not redacted for general purpose; the process is only triggered by FOIA request, department policy, or a court order.
- Revision and analysis of the redacted audio: The efficiency of the audio redaction software used, notwithstanding the final redacted audio file, should be analyzed, reviewed, and confirmed for accuracy. It is crucial to the audio signal that replaced sensitive information is consistent and not distracting.
- No audio filter: Audio redaction software should not hide sensitive information by distorting the pitch of the sound. It is bad ethics of audio redaction. Avoiding it helps the integrity, as the original audio file can be reversed.
- Reduce listener fatigue: Listening to redacted audio with more than two seconds of the clearly redacted segment can be distracting. This prolonged exposure to redacted signals can be eliminated by varying the signals. The signal variation ranges from distinct and less fatiguing to signal different parts of the redacted segment.
- Synchronizing audio with the video stream: A redacted audio that is not in sync with the video stream will cause confusion or distraction at best. Ensuring the audio and the video are synchronous is important for its credibility, and the redacted audio must be consistent with the video of the file. Uniformity of the signal tone or set of tones is advisable to avoid creating a distracting redacted content. A consistent signal tone is less distracting as listeners get comfortable with the consistency of signal tone.
- Incorporating Silence: Silence is a popular method of redaction that carries its own meaning in a context. It can be misconstrued as part of the content of the recording or give another meaning or emotion to the content. Using silence as a method of redaction requires great care and meticulous attention. It is mostly recommended for combining two or more synchronous audio contents that need to be redacted separately. In this case, inserting tone to separate end of a redacted audio content from the beginning of another is recommended.
Redaction process is just about the visuals as it is about the sounds. Having an audio-visual record of a police cross-questioning process helps every law enforcement agency present an accurate representation of a suspect’s interrogation proceedings while making the entire process as credible as possible.
However, a credible interrogation proceeding must be fair and square. And this may require the outright removal of sensitive content from an audio record without sabotaging the credibility of the overall content.
If done the appropriate way, recording interviews are critical to every criminal proceeding as it helps to establish an objective investigation process that protects both the police agency and the defendants from false accusations.
While video redaction software often comes with the capability to redact audio as well, there are still a lot of things you must know just on the audio side. Make sure that your audio redaction software is as good as your video redaction software and it helps if they are both in the same software so you don’t have to learn two different applications.